The Israeli Scientist Investigating a New Way to Fight the Coronavirus with the Help of a Llama

Llamas are native to neither the Levant nor to New England, but a scientist in Jerusalem, using antibodies taken from a llama in Massachusetts, may have discovered a highly effective treatment for COVID-19. Unlike the vaccines that have recently been in the news, this treatment can be given to patients who already have the virus to hasten their recovery. Nathan Jeffay writes:

Dina Schneidman-Duhovny . . . has examined the qualities of dozens of antibodies from a llama called Wally, and identified which would best fight the coronavirus in humans. The best candidates have been tested in vitro by her U.S.-based colleagues with live coronavirus and human cells, and appear to reduce significantly the virus’s ability to infect cells.

Since llama antibodies are much smaller than human antibodies—they are often dubbed “nanobodies”—they are simpler and cheaper to replicate artificially. Researchers say they would not need to be taken intravenously, unlike human antibodies, and could be dosed via an inhaler, which is already being developed for clinical testing.

“They are highly potent,” Schneidman-Duhovny [said], adding that the nanobodies have the potential to help millions of patients. “The antibodies stick to the virus and just don’t come off, almost acting like glue. The antibodies are also very specific, targeting the novel coronavirus very precisely.”

Schneidman-Duhovny said that judging by their in-vitro performance, her team’s antibodies are more effective than anything seen to date. . . . . Her research, which has just been peer-reviewed and published in the journal Science, focuses on the potential of synthetically made antibodies, based on those produced by Wally, who lives on a Massachusetts farm.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Coronavirus, Medicine, Science


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy