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Some months prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor David Stuart in collaboration with Arthur Huang (Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan) piloted a pipeline for comprehensive, atomic level, analysis of neutralising antibody responses in four Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) child patients infected during the 2012 EV71 B5 epidemic (unpublished). In brief, some 50% of the antibodies in 4 children were found to be against this virus, and of these ~50% were neutralising. The number of unique antibodies was rather small so a comprehensive structural analysis of the antibodies and their interaction with EV71 was performed for 13 antibodies providing a comprehensive in-depth map of antibody responses, which revealed unexpected insight into focussing of responses in individuals.

This work was a prelude to the activity triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has brought together groups from across the NDM (notably Professors Gavin Screaton, Alain Townsend, David Stuart) to rapidly map out immune responses to SARS-CoV-2. This has linked to work with NDM Professor Jim Naismith, the Director of the RFI, to develop potent nanobodies, and with Professor Peijun Zhang for tomography on whole virus.  The Screaton Lab (WHG) has generated >200 virus specific antibodies with varying isotypes some with sub-nanomolar binding affinities.