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Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-477789


The widespread SARS-CoV-2 in humans results in the continuous emergence of new variants. Recently emerged Omicron variant with multiple spike mutations sharply increases the risk of breakthrough infection or reinfection, highlighting the urgent need for new vaccines with broad-spectrum antigenic coverage. Using inter-lineage chimera and mutation patch strategies, we engineered a recombinant monomeric spike variant (STFK1628x), which showed high immunogenicity and mutually complementary antigenicity to its prototypic form (STFK). In hamsters, a bivalent vaccine comprised of STFK and STFK1628x elicited high titers of broad-spectrum antibodies to neutralize all 14 circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron; and fully protected vaccinees from intranasal SARS-CoV-2 challenges of either the ancestral strain or immune-evasive Beta variant. Strikingly, the vaccination of hamsters with the bivalent vaccine completely blocked the within-cage virus transmission to unvaccinated sentinels, for either the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 or Beta variant. Thus, our study provides new insights and antigen candidates for developing next-generation COVID-19 vaccines.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-468472


Remarkable progress has been made in developing intramuscular vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); however, they are limited with respect to eliciting local immunity in the respiratory tract, which is the primary infection site for SARS-CoV-2. To overcome the limitations of intramuscular vaccines, we constructed a nasal vaccine candidate based on an influenza vector by inserting a gene encoding the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, named CA4-dNS1-nCoV-RBD (dNS1-RBD). A preclinical study showed that in hamsters challenged 1 day and 7 days after single-dose vaccination or 6 months after booster vaccination, dNS1-RBD largely mitigated lung pathology, with no loss of body weight, caused by either the prototype-like strain or beta variant of SARS-CoV-2. Lasted data showed that the animals could be well protected against beta variant challenge 9 months after vaccination. Notably, the weight loss and lung pathological changes of hamsters could still be significantly reduced when the hamster was vaccinated 24 h after challenge. Moreover, such cellular immunity is relatively unimpaired for the most concerning SARS-CoV-2 variants. The protective immune mechanism of dNS1-RBD could be attributed to the innate immune response in the nasal epithelium, local RBD-specific T cell response in the lung, and RBD-specific IgA and IgG response. Thus, this study demonstrates that the intranasally delivered dNS1-RBD vaccine candidate may offer an important addition to fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, compensating limitations of current intramuscular vaccines, particularly at the start of an outbreak.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-423552


A safe and effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is essential to avert the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we developed a subunit vaccine, which is comprised of CHO-expressed spike ectodomain protein (StriFK) and nitrogen bisphosphonates-modified zinc-aluminum hybrid adjuvant (FH002C). This vaccine candidate rapidly elicited the robust humoral response, Th1/Th2 balanced helper CD4 T cell and CD8 T cell immune response in animal models. In mice, hamsters, and non-human primates, 2-shot and 3-shot immunization of StriFK-FH002C generated 28- to 38-fold and 47- to 269-fold higher neutralizing antibody titers than the human COVID-19 convalescent plasmas, respectively. More importantly, the StriFK-FH002C immunization conferred sterilizing immunity to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission, which also protected animals from virus-induced weight loss, COVID-19-like symptoms, and pneumonia in hamsters. Vaccine-induced neutralizing and cell-based receptor-blocking antibody titers correlated well with protective efficacy in hamsters, suggesting vaccine-elicited protection is immune-associated. The StriFK-FH002C provided a promising SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate for further clinical evaluation.

Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-215236


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2, which is mediated by the viral spike protein and host ACE2 receptor, is an essential target for the development of vaccines, therapeutic antibodies, and drugs. Using a mammalian cell expression system, we generated a recombinant fluorescent protein (Gamillus)-fused SARS-CoV-2 spike trimer (STG) to probe the viral entry process. In ACE2-expressing cells, we found that the STG probe has excellent performance in the live-cell visualization of receptor binding, cellular uptake, and intracellular trafficking of SARS-CoV-2 under virus-free conditions. The new system allows quantitative analyses of the inhibition potentials and detailed influence of COVID-19-convalescent human plasmas, neutralizing antibodies and compounds, providing a versatile tool for high-throughput screening and phenotypic characterization of SARS-CoV-2 entry inhibitors. This approach may also be adapted to develop a viral entry visualization system for other viruses.