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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.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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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