Saving sight with drugs derived from sharks


Description of impact

"To address the challenges of these traditional antibody-based methods of treatment, a spinout company from the University of Aberdeen is developing a more effective and less invasive solution using domains known as soloMERs™. Elasmogen Ltd was founded in 2016 by Dr Caroline Barelle and Professor Andy Porter, and since then the company has developed its soloMER products which have the potential to transform the treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancer.

Variable New Antigen Receptors (VNARs) are found in sharks and form an integral part of their immune system. They are the equivalent of antibodies found in humans and respond in a similar way, protecting sharks against foreign cells, but they are much smaller, making them ideal for targeting hard-to-reach areas in the body such as tumours. Elasmogen has developed robust methods to isolate these molecules which will bind to desired disease targets, and the company has created ‘humanised’ versions of VNARs now known as soloMERs. This new technology has a number of advantages over current treatments. "

Project summary and aims

When our bodies are attacked by bacteria, fungi or viruses, our immune systems are triggered to respond and to fight back against the infection. Specialised proteins called antibodies are produced in response to these external pathogens and can identify and bind specifically to the foreign targets, allowing them to be eliminated by immune system killer cells.

But antibodies aren’t only useful inside the body. The last few decades have seen huge steps forward in researchers’ understanding of antibodies and their ability to develop these as therapeutic drugs that can target specific disease molecules. Remarkable success has been achieved both clinically and commercially, primarily in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

Outcomes to Date / Future Developments

Impact statusImpact Completed (Open)
Impact date2016


  • Health, nutrition and wellbeing