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EBioMedicine ; 92: 104574, 2023 Jun.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2308166


BACKGROUND: The SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic has fuelled the generation of vaccines at an unprecedented pace and scale. However, many challenges remain, including: the emergence of vaccine-resistant mutant viruses, vaccine stability during storage and transport, waning vaccine-induced immunity, and concerns about infrequent adverse events associated with existing vaccines. METHODS: We report on a protein subunit vaccine comprising the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, dimerised with an immunoglobulin IgG1 Fc domain. These were tested in conjunction with three different adjuvants: a TLR2 agonist R4-Pam2Cys, an NKT cell agonist glycolipid α-Galactosylceramide, or MF59® squalene oil-in-water adjuvant, using mice, rats and hamsters. We also developed an RBD-human IgG1 Fc vaccine with an RBD sequence of the immuno-evasive beta variant (N501Y, E484K, K417N). These vaccines were also tested as a heterologous third dose booster in mice, following priming with whole spike vaccine. FINDINGS: Each formulation of the RBD-Fc vaccines drove strong neutralising antibody (nAb) responses and provided durable and highly protective immunity against lower and upper airway infection in mouse models of COVID-19. The 'beta variant' RBD vaccine, combined with MF59® adjuvant, induced strong protection in mice against the beta strain as well as the ancestral strain. Furthermore, when used as a heterologous third dose booster, the RBD-Fc vaccines combined with MF59® increased titres of nAb against other variants including alpha, delta, delta+, gamma, lambda, mu, and omicron BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5. INTERPRETATION: These results demonstrated that an RBD-Fc protein subunit/MF59® adjuvanted vaccine can induce high levels of broadly reactive nAbs, including when used as a booster following prior immunisation of mice with whole ancestral-strain spike vaccines. This vaccine platform offers a potential approach to augment some of the currently approved vaccines in the face of emerging variants of concern, and it has now entered a phase I clinical trial. FUNDING: This work was supported by grants from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) (2005846), The Jack Ma Foundation, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC; 1113293) and Singapore National Medical Research Council (MOH-COVID19RF-003). Individual researchers were supported by an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship (1117766), NHMRC Investigator Awards (2008913 and 1173871), Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (ARC DECRA; DE210100705) and philanthropic awards from IFM investors and the A2 Milk Company.

COVID-19 , Carrier Proteins , Cricetinae , Humans , Mice , Rats , Animals , COVID-19 Vaccines , SARS-CoV-2 , Protein Subunits , COVID-19/prevention & control , Australia , Adjuvants, Immunologic , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral
Clin Transl Immunology ; 10(4): e1269, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1162553


OBJECTIVES: Efforts to develop and deploy effective vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continue at pace. Here, we describe rational antigen design through to manufacturability and vaccine efficacy of a prefusion-stabilised spike (S) protein, Sclamp, in combination with the licensed adjuvant MF59 'MF59C.1' (Seqirus, Parkville, Australia). METHODS: A panel recombinant Sclamp proteins were produced in Chinese hamster ovary and screened in vitro to select a lead vaccine candidate. The structure of this antigen was determined by cryo-electron microscopy and assessed in mouse immunogenicity studies, hamster challenge studies and safety and toxicology studies in rat. RESULTS: In mice, the Sclamp vaccine elicits high levels of neutralising antibodies, as well as broadly reactive and polyfunctional S-specific CD4+ and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells in vivo. In the Syrian hamster challenge model (n = 70), vaccination results in reduced viral load within the lung, protection from pulmonary disease and decreased viral shedding in daily throat swabs which correlated strongly with the neutralising antibody level. CONCLUSION: The SARS-CoV-2 Sclamp vaccine candidate is compatible with large-scale commercial manufacture, stable at 2-8°C. When formulated with MF59 adjuvant, it elicits neutralising antibodies and T-cell responses and provides protection in animal challenge models.