Preparing for disease X, the next pathogenic respiratory viruses: the development of cross-reactive nanobodies for diagnosis, prophylaxis and treatment of coronavirus infections.


  • Prof William James

    University of Oxford, United Kingdom

  • Prof Ray Owens

    University of Oxford, United Kingdom

  • Prof James Stewart

    University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

  • Prof James Naismith

    Rosalind Franklin Institute, United Kingdom

  • Prof Miles Carroll

    Public Health England (PHE), United Kingdom

Project summary

Respiratory viruses are the most frequent causes of human disease worldwide and owing to the nature of transmission, have the potential for spreading rapidly. SARS-CoV-2, a virus that reached 27 countries within a matter of weeks, highlights how the emergence of a novel respiratory virus can quickly lead to a global pandemic. We propose to build a multi-disciplinary pipeline to generate, identify, characterise and test nanobodies, for the rapid diagnosis and treatment of newly emergent pathogenic respiratory viruses. Nanobodies are small single domain antibodies that can be used to produce highly potent agents for detecting and blocking viral infection. By understanding how and where they bind to viruses we will learn how to improve their activity. Overall, we aim to produce reagents that will have immediate use in coronavirus outbreaks and also establish a pipeline ready for Disease X, the very serious threat that unknown viruses pose to human health.