2023 Honorable Mention – Erin Lee

Discovering Shark Antibodies

Digital painting

At first glance, it can be quite strange to see a shark morphing into a test tube that a scientist is holding, which is essentially what this artwork illustrates. After working in a lab all summer, I wanted to illustrate what I had spent my time researching which was Shark Antibodies.. The goal of this artwork was to show that antibodies were discovered from immunizing sharks with SARS-CoV-2–proteins. The shark antibodies help scientists study the virus and are special because of how small and stable they are.

Discovering Shark Antibodies is my first ever digital piece that I created through ProCreate. The process was not easy but I soon got the hang of it after many trials and errors of layering and experimenting with brushes. My idea was to make a visual conception of “morphing” shark bodies into the actual antibody in the test tube. The hand holding the test tube was actually my lab mentor’s hand, which I photographed and later on drew (she was very excited to be a hand model). The test tube in the piece was also the actual test tube we had used for one of the experiments. The lab also had a bunch of nurse sharks in Baltimore, and had gone to visit them a couple of months back, so I used some of their pictures they took as references.

This piece is based off of a summer internship I did in 2022. The antibodies were discovered from immunizing sharks with SARS-CoV-2 proteins. These shark antibodies are special because they are very small and stable and could be used as therapeutics or as reagents that can help scientists study the virus. In the paper from the summer research, lab members showed data that these antibodies can bind to SARS-CoV-2 and even block “fake” viruses from infecting cells. It was possible to make these hybrid molecules that combine two different shark antibodies and by doing that you can increase their effectiveness to cover even the newer variants.