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1.
mSphere ; : e0024322, 2022 Aug 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1992945

ABSTRACT

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has contributed largely to the global vaccine disparity. Development of protein subunit vaccines can help alleviate shortages of COVID-19 vaccines delivered to low-income countries. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of a three-dose virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine composed of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) decorated with the receptor binding domain (RBD) from the Wuhan or Beta SARS-CoV-2 strain adjuvanted with either aluminum hydroxide (alum) or squalene in water emulsion (SWE). RBD HBsAg vaccines were compared to the standard two doses of Pfizer mRNA vaccine. Alum-adjuvanted vaccines were composed of either HBsAg conjugated with Beta RBD alone (ß RBD HBsAg+Al) or a combination of both Beta RBD HBsAg and Wuhan RBD HBsAg (ß/Wu RBD HBsAg+Al). RBD vaccines adjuvanted with SWE were formulated with Beta RBD HBsAg (ß RBD HBsAg+SWE) or without HBsAg (ß RBD+SWE). Both alum-adjuvanted RBD HBsAg vaccines generated functional RBD IgG against multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC), decreased viral RNA burden, and lowered inflammation in the lung against Alpha or Beta challenge in K18-hACE2 mice. However, only ß/Wu RBD HBsAg+Al was able to afford 100% survival to mice challenged with Alpha or Beta VOC. Furthermore, mice immunized with ß RBD HBsAg+SWE induced cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies against major VOC of SARS-CoV-2, lowered viral RNA burden in the lung and brain, and protected mice from Alpha or Beta challenge similarly to mice immunized with Pfizer mRNA. However, RBD+SWE immunization failed to protect mice from VOC challenge. Our findings demonstrate that RBD HBsAg VLP vaccines provided similar protection profiles to the approved Pfizer mRNA vaccines used worldwide and may offer protection against SARS-CoV-2 VOC. IMPORTANCE Global COVID-19 vaccine distribution to low-income countries has been a major challenge of the pandemic. To address supply chain issues, RBD virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines that are cost-effective and capable of large-scale production were developed and evaluated for efficacy in preclinical mouse studies. We demonstrated that RBD-VLP vaccines protected K18-hACE2 mice against Alpha or Beta challenge similarly to Pfizer mRNA vaccination. Our findings showed that the VLP platform can be utilized to formulate immunogenic and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines.

2.
Sci Transl Med ; 14(654): eabn1413, 2022 Jul 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1949951

ABSTRACT

To combat the HIV epidemic and emerging threats such as SARS-CoV-2, immunization strategies are needed that elicit protection at mucosal portals of pathogen entry. Immunization directly through airway surfaces is effective in driving mucosal immunity, but poor vaccine uptake across the mucus and epithelial lining is a limitation. The major blood protein albumin is constitutively transcytosed bidirectionally across the airway epithelium through interactions with neonatal Fc receptors (FcRn). Exploiting this biology, here, we demonstrate a strategy of "albumin hitchhiking" to promote mucosal immunity using an intranasal vaccine consisting of protein immunogens modified with an amphiphilic albumin-binding polymer-lipid tail, forming amph-proteins. Amph-proteins persisted in the nasal mucosa of mice and nonhuman primates and exhibited increased uptake into the tissue in an FcRn-dependent manner, leading to enhanced germinal center responses in nasal-associated lymphoid tissue. Intranasal immunization with amph-conjugated HIV Env gp120 or SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) proteins elicited 100- to 1000-fold higher antigen-specific IgG and IgA titers in the serum, upper and lower respiratory mucosa, and distal genitourinary mucosae of mice compared to unmodified protein. Amph-RBD immunization induced high titers of SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies in serum, nasal washes, and bronchoalveolar lavage. Furthermore, intranasal amph-protein immunization in rhesus macaques elicited 10-fold higher antigen-specific IgG and IgA responses in the serum and nasal mucosa compared to unmodified protein, supporting the translational potential of this approach. These results suggest that using amph-protein vaccines to deliver antigen across mucosal epithelia is a promising strategy to promote mucosal immunity against HIV, SARS-CoV-2, and other infectious diseases.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , HIV Infections , Administration, Intranasal , Albumins , Animals , Antibodies, Viral , COVID-19/prevention & control , HIV Infections/prevention & control , Immunity, Mucosal , Immunoglobulin A , Immunoglobulin G , Lipids , Macaca mulatta , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , SARS-CoV-2 , Vaccination
3.
Hum Vaccin Immunother ; : 2079346, 2022 Jun 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1878720

ABSTRACT

Low-cost, refrigerator-stable COVID-19 vaccines will facilitate global access and improve vaccine coverage in low- and middle-income countries. To this end, subunit-based approaches targeting the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein remain attractive. Antibodies against RBD neutralize SARS-CoV-2 by blocking viral attachment to the host cell receptor, ACE2. Here, a yeast-produced recombinant RBD antigen (RBD-L452K-F490W or RBD-J) was formulated with various combinations of aluminum-salt (Alhydrogel®, AH; AdjuPhos®, AP) and CpG 1018 adjuvants. We assessed the effect of antigen-adjuvant interactions on the stability and mouse immunogenicity of various RBD-J preparations. While RBD-J was 50% adsorbed to AH and <15% to AP, addition of CpG resulted in complete AH binding, yet no improvement in AP adsorption. ACE2 competition ELISA analyses of formulated RBD-J stored at varying temperatures (4, 25, 37°C) revealed that RBD-J was destabilized by AH, an effect exacerbated by CpG. DSC studies demonstrated that aluminum-salt and CpG adjuvants decrease the conformational stability of RBD-J and suggest a direct CpG-RBD-J interaction. Although AH+CpG-adjuvanted RBD-J was the least stable in vitro, the formulation was most potent at eliciting SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus neutralizing antibodies in mice. In contrast, RBD-J formulated with AP+CpG showed minimal antigen-adjuvant interactions, a better stability profile, but suboptimal immune responses. Interestingly, the loss of in vivo potency associated with heat-stressed RBD-J formulated with AH+CpG after one dose was abrogated by a booster. Our findings highlight the importance of elucidating the key interrelationships between antigen-adjuvant interactions, storage stability, and in vivo performance to enable successful formulation development of stable and efficacious subunit vaccines.

4.
Sci Adv ; 8(11): eabl6015, 2022 Mar 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1745843

ABSTRACT

Authorized vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 remain less available in low- and middle-income countries due to insufficient supply, high costs, and storage requirements. Global immunity could still benefit from new vaccines using widely available, safe adjuvants, such as alum and protein subunits, suited to low-cost production in existing manufacturing facilities. Here, a clinical-stage vaccine candidate comprising a SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain-hepatitis B surface antigen virus-like particle elicited protective immunity in cynomolgus macaques. Titers of neutralizing antibodies (>104) induced by this candidate were above the range of protection for other licensed vaccines in nonhuman primates. Including CpG 1018 did not significantly improve the immunological responses. Vaccinated animals challenged with SARS-CoV-2 showed reduced median viral loads in bronchoalveolar lavage (~3.4 log10) and nasal mucosa (~2.9 log10) versus sham controls. These data support the potential benefit of this design for a low-cost modular vaccine platform for SARS-CoV-2 and other variants of concern or betacoronaviruses.

5.
Sci Adv ; 7(50): eabj6538, 2021 Dec 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1559847

ABSTRACT

There is a need for additional rapidly scalable, low-cost vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to achieve global vaccination. Aluminum hydroxide (alum) adjuvant is the most widely available vaccine adjuvant but elicits modest humoral responses. We hypothesized that phosphate-mediated coanchoring of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 together with molecular adjuvants on alum particles could potentiate humoral immunity by promoting extended vaccine kinetics and codelivery of vaccine components to lymph nodes. Modification of RBD immunogens with phosphoserine (pSer) peptides enabled efficient alum binding and slowed antigen clearance, leading to notable increases in germinal center responses and neutralizing antibody titers in mice. Adding phosphate-containing CpG or saponin adjuvants to pSer-RBD:alum immunizations synergistically enhanced vaccine immunogenicity in mice and rhesus macaques, inducing neutralizing responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants. Thus, phosphate-mediated coanchoring of RBD and molecular adjuvants to alum is an effective strategy to enhance the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 subunit vaccines.

6.
Biotechnol Bioeng ; 119(2): 657-662, 2022 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1516721

ABSTRACT

Prevention of COVID-19 on a global scale will require the continued development of high-volume, low-cost platforms for the manufacturing of vaccines to supply ongoing demand. Vaccine candidates based on recombinant protein subunits remain important because they can be manufactured at low costs in existing large-scale production facilities that use microbial hosts like Komagataella phaffii (Pichia pastoris). Here, we report an improved and scalable manufacturing approach for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor-binding domain (RBD); this protein is a key antigen for several reported vaccine candidates. We genetically engineered a manufacturing strain of K. phaffii to obviate the requirement for methanol induction of the recombinant gene. Methanol-free production improved the secreted titer of the RBD protein by >5X by alleviating protein folding stress. Removal of methanol from the production process enabled to scale up to a 1200 L pre-existing production facility. This engineered strain is now used to produce an RBD-based vaccine antigen that is currently in clinical trials and could be used to produce other variants of RBD as needed for future vaccines.

7.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 118(38)2021 09 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1397979

ABSTRACT

Global containment of COVID-19 still requires accessible and affordable vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recently approved vaccines provide needed interventions, albeit at prices that may limit their global access. Subunit vaccines based on recombinant proteins are suited for large-volume microbial manufacturing to yield billions of doses annually, minimizing their manufacturing cost. These types of vaccines are well-established, proven interventions with multiple safe and efficacious commercial examples. Many vaccine candidates of this type for SARS-CoV-2 rely on sequences containing the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which mediates viral entry to cells via ACE2. Here we report an engineered sequence variant of RBD that exhibits high-yield manufacturability, high-affinity binding to ACE2, and enhanced immunogenicity after a single dose in mice compared to the Wuhan-Hu-1 variant used in current vaccines. Antibodies raised against the engineered protein exhibited heterotypic binding to the RBD from two recently reported SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (501Y.V1/V2). Presentation of the engineered RBD on a designed virus-like particle (VLP) also reduced weight loss in hamsters upon viral challenge.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Protein Engineering/methods , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Animals , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , Antigens, Viral , Binding Sites , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Vaccines/economics , Humans , Immunogenicity, Vaccine , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Models, Molecular , Protein Binding , Protein Conformation , Saccharomycetales/metabolism , Vaccines, Subunit
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