Canadian Coalition for COVID-19 releases 51 promising nanobodies

August 19, 2020

Coalition uses ‘open source biology’ to attract global collaborators 

A coalition of Canadian companies has published 51 antibodies that show promising ability to bind the COVID-19 virus by attaching to its crown-like spikes. 

The coalition — comprised of Novobind, Cedarlane, SignalChem, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Natural Products Canada —  is offering free non-exclusive and limited exclusive licenses in an effort to foster rapid development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to help neutralize the impact of COVID-19.

Hamlet Abnousi, CEO, Novobind

“The results from the coalition’s first tests provide hope for controlling or reducing the severity of the coronavirus in its victims,” says Hamlet Abnousi of Novobind, who initiated the coalition when his team reviewed some early COVID research that complemented their unique expertise in nanobodies*.

Nanobodies — specific antibodies found in llamas and sharks — help to identify targeted pathogens and cause an immune response. From a research perspective, llama nanobodies have many advantages over conventional human antibodies, including being roughly 1000 times cheaper to make, and having a much lower risk of enabling entry of the virus into unintended immune cells. Further information on the use of nanobodies can be found on the coalition’s website at

Nanobodies are found in llamas like Maple, who was the subject of the Coalition’s work

The coalition, whose members are donating their time and resources to the project, formed earlier this year to combine efforts around research and dissemination of novel data that can be used to expand academic research, diagnostics and therapeutic development. 

“By sharing our results with the global research community, we aim to complement existing efforts and enable those that do not have access to blockbuster technologies,” says Abnousi.

SignalChem, who developed the synthetic versions of the viral targets (antigens), and Cedarlane, who facilitated the generation of the antibodies in the llama, are currently preparing for the next phase of the research with a second llama. They hope this design phase will be informed by the insights of the global research community take advantage of the free access to the 51 antibodies. 

Lee Johnson of Wilson Sonsini is one of the founders of the Coalition
Lee Johnson, Wison Sonsini

“We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible for the research community to participate,” says Lee Johnson, partner, patents and innovation at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who filed the provisional patent for the coalition. “The intent is to ensure the sequences of the antibodies are not orphaned, while facilitating effective development of tools that would then be accessible to all COVID patients, regardless of ability to pay.” 

Research teams that want to access a license for the sequences will be asked to sign a pledge committing to the objectives of the coalition, which were created to ensure fair and equitable patient access to resulting products, regardless of economic means.

Those interested in accessing the sequences can visit 

*Trademarked by Ablynx, otherwise known as single domain antibodies, llama antibodies, VHH, VNAR


Sue Coueslan, Natural Products Canada

The company offers a myriad of biologicals and biochemicals to Life Science researchers and clinicians providing products from virtually all of the World’s most renowned international manufacturers. Cedarlane provides a gateway to over two million global reagents. Customers have the advantage of freight consolidation and the convenience and cost savings inherent within. Manufactured products include monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, cell separation media, complement for tissue typing, and highly characterized neuronal cell lines. Visit

Natural Products Canada (NPC) is the driving force behind Canada’s Natural Product Innovation Cluster–a strategic community of SMEs, research institutes, corporations, investors, government departments, and service providers who support the development and commercialization of naturally-derived products and technologies in health and life sciences, natural resources, agriculture and agri-food, and sustainable bioproducts. NPC has over 600 opportunities in its pipeline, has completed eleven investments, and has already experienced two exits. Visit

NovoBind Livestock Technologies develops products that meet the growing global demand for in creased food production without the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial chemicals. Their next-generation biologics target and neutralize devastating pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause $22 billion (USD) in aggregate annual loss to producers in the poultry, shrimp, and companion animal sectors. NovoBind is currently expanding its technology platform to address other sectors of food production, including crop health.  Visit

SignalChem Lifesciences Corporation is a Canadian company focused on the research, development, and production of innovative and high-quality human recombinant cell signaling products. SignalChem strives to support scientists in academia, pharma, and biotech companies around the world by creating effective research tools to advance the basic research in life sciences and to facilitate the efforts in drug discovery and development.

Partners in Discovery and Innovation, law firm Wilson Sonsini has one of the largest life sciences practices in the world. For more than 60 years, our attorneys have worked closely with scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors who have helped develop new and innovative discoveries in nearly every field of medicine and healthcare, from genomics, immuno-oncology, and pharmaceuticals, to diagnostics and synthetic biology. Visit