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1.
ACS central science ; 8(5):527-545, 2022.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-1871009

ABSTRACT

Heparan sulfate (HS) is a cell surface polysaccharide recently identified as a coreceptor with the ACE2 protein for the S1 spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 virus, providing a tractable new therapeutic target. Clinically used heparins demonstrate an inhibitory activity but have an anticoagulant activity and are supply-limited, necessitating alternative solutions. Here, we show that synthetic HS mimetic pixatimod (PG545), a cancer drug candidate, binds and destabilizes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain and directly inhibits its binding to ACE2, consistent with molecular modeling identification of multiple molecular contacts and overlapping pixatimod and ACE2 binding sites. Assays with multiple clinical isolates of SARS-CoV-2 virus show that pixatimod potently inhibits the infection of monkey Vero E6 cells and physiologically relevant human bronchial epithelial cells at safe therapeutic concentrations. Pixatimod also retained broad potency against variants of concern (VOC) including B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and B.1.1.529 (Omicron). Furthermore, in a K18-hACE2 mouse model, pixatimod significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 viral titers in the upper respiratory tract and virus-induced weight loss. This demonstration of potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity tolerant to emerging mutations establishes proof-of-concept for targeting the HS–Spike protein–ACE2 axis with synthetic HS mimetics and provides a strong rationale for clinical investigation of pixatimod as a potential multimodal therapeutic for COVID-19. Heparan sulfate (HS) has emerged as a SARS-CoV-2 coreceptor. Pixatimod (PG545), an HS mimetic, inhibits infectivity of multiple variants offering a novel therapeutic approach against COVID-19.

2.
ACS Cent Sci ; 8(5): 527-545, 2022 May 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1795854

ABSTRACT

Heparan sulfate (HS) is a cell surface polysaccharide recently identified as a coreceptor with the ACE2 protein for the S1 spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 virus, providing a tractable new therapeutic target. Clinically used heparins demonstrate an inhibitory activity but have an anticoagulant activity and are supply-limited, necessitating alternative solutions. Here, we show that synthetic HS mimetic pixatimod (PG545), a cancer drug candidate, binds and destabilizes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain and directly inhibits its binding to ACE2, consistent with molecular modeling identification of multiple molecular contacts and overlapping pixatimod and ACE2 binding sites. Assays with multiple clinical isolates of SARS-CoV-2 virus show that pixatimod potently inhibits the infection of monkey Vero E6 cells and physiologically relevant human bronchial epithelial cells at safe therapeutic concentrations. Pixatimod also retained broad potency against variants of concern (VOC) including B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and B.1.1.529 (Omicron). Furthermore, in a K18-hACE2 mouse model, pixatimod significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 viral titers in the upper respiratory tract and virus-induced weight loss. This demonstration of potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity tolerant to emerging mutations establishes proof-of-concept for targeting the HS-Spike protein-ACE2 axis with synthetic HS mimetics and provides a strong rationale for clinical investigation of pixatimod as a potential multimodal therapeutic for COVID-19.

3.
Vaccines (Basel) ; 10(4)2022 Apr 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1786092

ABSTRACT

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt essential health services in 90 percent of countries today. The spike (S) protein found on the surface of the causative agent, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has been the prime target for current vaccine research since antibodies directed against the S protein were found to neutralize the virus. However, as new variants emerge, mutations within the spike protein have given rise to potential immune evasion of the response generated by the current generation of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. In this study, a modified, HexaPro S protein subunit vaccine, delivered using a needle-free high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP), was investigated for its immunogenicity and virus-neutralizing abilities. Mice given two doses of the vaccine candidate generated potent antibody responses capable of neutralizing the parental SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as the variants of concern, Alpha and Delta. These results demonstrate that this alternative vaccination strategy has the potential to mitigate the effect of emerging viral variants.

4.
Pharmaceutics ; 14(4)2022 Apr 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1785876

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused a global crisis, resulting in 0.5 billion infections and over 6 million deaths as of March 2022. Fortunately, infection and hospitalization rates were curbed due to the rollout of DNA and mRNA vaccines. However, the efficacy of these vaccines significantly drops a few months post immunization, from 88% down to 47% in the case of the Pfizer BNT162 vaccine. The emergence of variant strains, especially delta and omicron, have also significantly reduced vaccine efficacy. We propose peptide vaccines as a potential solution to address the inadequacies of the current vaccines. Peptide vaccines can be easily modified to target emerging strains, have greater stability, and do not require cold-chain storage. We screened five peptide fragments (B1-B5) derived from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to identify neutralizing B-cell peptide antigens. We then investigated adjuvant systems for efficient stimulation of immune responses against the most promising peptide antigens, including liposomal formulations of polyleucine (L10) and polymethylacrylate (PMA), as well as classical adjuvants (CFA and MF59). Immune efficacy of formulations was evaluated using competitive ELISA, pseudovirion neutralization, and live virus neutralization assays. Unfortunately, peptide conjugation to L10 and PMA dramatically altered the secondary structure, resulting in low antibody neutralization efficacy. Of the peptides tested, only B3 administered with CFA or MF59 was highly immunogenic. Thus, a peptide vaccine relying on B3 may provide an attractive alternative to currently marketed vaccines.

6.
Lancet Infect Dis ; 21(10): 1383-1394, 2021 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1621119

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Given the scale of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the development of vaccines based on different platforms is essential, particularly in light of emerging viral variants, the absence of information on vaccine-induced immune durability, and potential paediatric use. We aimed to assess the safety and immunogenicity of an MF59-adjuvanted subunit vaccine for COVID-19 based on recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein stabilised in a pre-fusion conformation by a novel molecular clamp (spike glycoprotein-clamp [sclamp]). METHODS: We did a phase 1, double-blind, placebo-controlled, block-randomised trial of the sclamp subunit vaccine in a single clinical trial site in Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Healthy adults (aged ≥18 to ≤55 years) who had tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, reported no close contact with anyone with active or previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, and tested negative for pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 immunity were included. Participants were randomly assigned to one of five treatment groups and received two doses via intramuscular injection 28 days apart of either placebo, sclamp vaccine at 5 µg, 15 µg, or 45 µg, or one dose of sclamp vaccine at 45 µg followed by placebo. Participants and study personnel, except the dose administration personnel, were masked to treatment. The primary safety endpoints included solicited local and systemic adverse events in the 7 days after each dose and unsolicited adverse events up to 12 months after dosing. Here, data are reported up until day 57. Primary immunogenicity endpoints were antigen-specific IgG ELISA and SARS-CoV-2 microneutralisation assays assessed at 28 days after each dose. The study is ongoing and registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04495933. FINDINGS: Between June 23, 2020, and Aug 17, 2020, of 314 healthy volunteers screened, 120 were randomly assigned (n=24 per group), and 114 (95%) completed the study up to day 57 (mean age 32·5 years [SD 10·4], 65 [54%] male, 55 [46%] female). Severe solicited reactions were infrequent and occurred at similar rates in participants receiving placebo (two [8%] of 24) and the SARS-CoV-2 sclamp vaccine at any dose (three [3%] of 96). Both solicited reactions and unsolicited adverse events occurred at a similar frequency in participants receiving placebo and the SARS-CoV-2 sclamp vaccine. Solicited reactions occurred in 19 (79%) of 24 participants receiving placebo and 86 (90%) of 96 receiving the SARS-CoV-2 sclamp vaccine at any dose. Unsolicited adverse events occurred in seven (29%) of 24 participants receiving placebo and 35 (36%) of 96 participants receiving the SARS-CoV-2 sclamp vaccine at any dose. Vaccination with SARS-CoV-2 sclamp elicited a similar antigen-specific response irrespective of dose: 4 weeks after the initial dose (day 29) with 5 µg dose (geometric mean titre [GMT] 6400, 95% CI 3683-11 122), with 15 µg dose (7492, 4959-11 319), and the two 45 µg dose cohorts (8770, 5526-13 920 in the two-dose 45 µg cohort; 8793, 5570-13 881 in the single-dose 45 µg cohort); 4 weeks after the second dose (day 57) with two 5 µg doses (102 400, 64 857-161 676), with two 15 µg doses (74 725, 51 300-108 847), with two 45 µg doses (79 586, 55 430-114 268), only a single 45 µg dose (4795, 2858-8043). At day 57, 67 (99%) of 68 participants who received two doses of sclamp vaccine at any concentration produced a neutralising immune response, compared with six (25%) of 24 who received a single 45 µg dose and none of 22 who received placebo. Participants receiving two doses of sclamp vaccine elicited similar neutralisation titres, irrespective of dose: two 5 µg doses (GMT 228, 95% CI 146-356), two 15 µg doses (230, 170-312), and two 45 µg doses (239, 187-307). INTERPRETATION: This first-in-human trial shows that a subunit vaccine comprising mammalian cell culture-derived, MF59-adjuvanted, molecular clamp-stabilised recombinant spike protein elicits strong immune responses with a promising safety profile. However, the glycoprotein 41 peptide present in the clamp created HIV diagnostic assay interference, a possible barrier to widespread use highlighting the criticality of potential non-spike directed immunogenicity during vaccine development. Studies are ongoing with alternative molecular clamp trimerisation domains to ameliorate this response. FUNDING: Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, National Health and Medical Research Council, Queensland Government, and further philanthropic sources listed in the acknowledgments.


Subject(s)
Adjuvants, Immunologic/pharmacology , COVID-19 Vaccines/administration & dosage , COVID-19/prevention & control , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , Squalene/immunology , Adult , Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Viral/blood , Australia , Female , Healthy Volunteers , Humans , Male , Pandemics/prevention & control , Polysorbates , Vaccination/adverse effects , Young Adult
7.
Vaccines (Basel) ; 9(12)2021 Dec 16.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1580388

ABSTRACT

This protocol describes an ELISA-based procedure for accurate measurement of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-receptor binding domain (RBD) neutralization efficacy by murine immune serum. The procedure requires a small amount of S-protein/RBD and angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2). A high-throughput, simple ELISA technique is employed. Plate-coated-RBDs are allowed to interact with the serum, then soluble ACE2 is added, followed by secondary antibodies and substrate. The key steps in this procedure include (1) serum heat treatment to prevent non-specific interactions, (2) proper use of blank controls to detect side reactions and eliminate secondary antibody cross-reactivity, (3) the addition of an optimal amount of saturating ACE2 to maximize sensitivity and prevent non-competitive co-occurrence of RBD-ACE2 binding and neutralization, and (4) mechanistically derived neutralization calculation using a calibration curve. Even manually, the protocol can be completed in 16 h for >30 serum samples; this includes the 7.5 h of incubation time. This automatable, high-throughput, competitive ELISA assay can screen a large number of sera, and does not require sterile conditions or special containment measures, as live viruses are not employed. In comparison to the 'gold standard' assays (virus neutralization titers (VNT) or plaque reduction neutralization titers (PRNT)), which are laborious and time consuming and require special containment measures due to their use of live viruses. This simple, alternative neutralization efficacy assay can be a great asset for initial vaccine development stages. The assay successfully passed conventional validation parameters (sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy) and results with moderately neutralizing murine sera correlated with VNT assay results (R2 = 0.975, n = 25), demonstrating high sensitivity.

8.
Sci Adv ; 7(44): eabj8065, 2021 Oct 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1494911

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected more than 160 million people and resulted in more than 3.3 million deaths, and despite the availability of multiple vaccines, the world still faces many challenges with their rollout. Here, we use the high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 spike subunit vaccine directly to the skin. We show that the vaccine is thermostable on the patches, with patch delivery enhancing both cellular and antibody immune responses. Elicited antibodies potently neutralize clinically relevant isolates including the Alpha and Beta variants. Last, a single dose of HD-MAP­delivered spike provided complete protection from a lethal virus challenge in an ACE2-transgenic mouse model. Collectively, these data show that HD-MAP delivery of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was superior to traditional needle-and-syringe vaccination and may be a significant addition to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.

9.
Viruses ; 13(10)2021 09 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1481007

ABSTRACT

Nipah virus (NiV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) possess two surface glycoproteins involved in cellular attachment and membrane fusion, both of which are potential targets for vaccines. The majority of vaccine development is focused on the attachment (G) protein of NiV, which is the immunodominant target. In contrast, the fusion (F) protein of RSV is the main target in vaccine development. Despite this, neutralising epitopes have been described in NiV F and RSV G, making them alternate targets for vaccine design. Through rational design, we have developed a vaccine strategy applicable to phylogenetically divergent NiV and RSV that comprises both the F and G proteins (FxG). In a mouse immunization model, we found that NiV FxG elicited an improved immune response capable of neutralising pseudotyped NiV and a NiV mutant that is able to escape neutralisation by two known F-specific antibodies. RSV FxG elicited an immune response against both F and G and was able to neutralise RSV; however, this was inferior to the immune response of F alone. Despite this, RSV FxG elicited a response against a known protective epitope within G that is conserved across RSV A and B subgroups, which may provide additional protection in vivo. We conclude that inclusion of F and G antigens within a single design provides a streamlined subunit vaccine strategy against both emerging and established pathogens, with the potential for broader protection against NiV.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Viral/blood , Henipavirus Infections/prevention & control , Nipah Virus/immunology , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/prevention & control , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines/immunology , Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human/immunology , Viral Envelope Proteins/immunology , Animals , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , Female , Humans , Mice , Mice, Inbred BALB C , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines/administration & dosage , Vaccines, Subunit/administration & dosage , Vaccines, Subunit/immunology , Viral Envelope Proteins/administration & dosage , Viral Envelope Proteins/genetics , Viral Fusion Proteins/immunology
10.
Pediatrics ; 148(5)2021 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1357451

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To describe the demographics, clinical characteristics, and hospital course among persons <21 years of age with a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-associated death. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective case series of suspected SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths in the United States in persons <21 years of age during February 12 to July 31, 2020. All states and territories were invited to participate. We abstracted demographic and clinical data, including laboratory and treatment details, from medical records. RESULTS: We included 112 SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths from 25 participating jurisdictions. The median age was 17 years (IQR 8.5-19 years). Most decedents were male (71, 63%), 31 (28%) were Black (non-Hispanic) persons, and 52 (46%) were Hispanic persons. Ninety-six decedents (86%) had at least 1 underlying condition; obesity (42%), asthma (29%), and developmental disorders (22%) were most commonly documented. Among 69 hospitalized decedents, common complications included mechanical ventilation (75%) and acute respiratory failure (82%). The sixteen (14%) decedents who met multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) criteria were similar in age, sex, and race and/or ethnicity to decedents without MIS-C; 11 of 16 (69%) had at least 1 underlying condition. CONCLUSIONS: SARS-CoV-2-associated deaths among persons <21 years of age occurred predominantly among Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic persons, male patients, and older adolescents. The most commonly reported underlying conditions were obesity, asthma, and developmental disorders. Decedents with coronavirus disease 2019 were more likely than those with MIS-C to have underlying medical conditions.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/complications , Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome/mortality , Adolescent , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/mortality , Child , Child, Preschool , Female , Humans , Infant , Male , Retrospective Studies , Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome/complications , Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome/diagnosis , United States/epidemiology
11.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 3431, 2021 06 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1262001

ABSTRACT

The current COVID-19 pandemic is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We demonstrate that despite the large size of the viral RNA genome (~30 kb), infectious full-length cDNA is readily assembled in vitro by a circular polymerase extension reaction (CPER) methodology without the need for technically demanding intermediate steps. Overlapping cDNA fragments are generated from viral RNA and assembled together with a linker fragment containing CMV promoter into a circular full-length viral cDNA in a single reaction. Transfection of the circular cDNA into mammalian cells results in the recovery of infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus that exhibits properties comparable to the parental virus in vitro and in vivo. CPER is also used to generate insect-specific Casuarina virus with ~20 kb genome and the human pathogens Ross River virus (Alphavirus) and Norovirus (Calicivirus), with the latter from a clinical sample. Additionally, reporter and mutant viruses are generated and employed to study virus replication and virus-receptor interactions.


Subject(s)
Reverse Genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Amino Acid Sequence , Animals , Base Sequence , Chlorocebus aethiops , Culicidae/virology , Furin/metabolism , Genome, Viral , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Mice , Mutation/genetics , NIH 3T3 Cells , Polymerase Chain Reaction , RAW 264.7 Cells , Receptors, Virus/metabolism , Vero Cells , Viral Proteins/chemistry , Virus Replication
12.
Clin Transl Immunology ; 10(4): e1269, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1162553

ABSTRACT

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.

13.
Front Microbiol ; 12: 625136, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1110305

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been identified as the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 and is capable of human-to-human transmission and rapid global spread. The rapid emergence and global spread of SARS-CoV-2 has encouraged the establishment of a rapid, sensitive, and reliable viral detection and quantification methodology. Here, we present an alternative assay, termed immuno-plaque assay (iPA), which utilizes a combination of plaque assay and immunofluorescence techniques. We have extensively optimized the conditions for SARS-CoV-2 infection and demonstrated the great flexibility of iPA detection using several antibodies and dual-probing with two distinct epitope-specific antibodies. In addition, we showed that iPA could be utilized for ultra-high-throughput viral titration and neutralization assay within 24 h and is amenable to a 384-well format. These advantages will significantly accelerate SARS-CoV-2 research outcomes during this pandemic period.

14.
Environ Res ; 196: 110944, 2021 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1108272

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in our understanding of safe, effective and efficient means of disinfecting high use public spaces. Whilst this creates an opportunity for development and application of innovative approaches such as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) based disinfection, unregulated outdoor disinfection using chlorine has led to environmental and public health risks. This study has quantified the efficiency, safety and efficacy of UAV-based spraying of aqueous ozone. Optimised UAV flight characteristics of 4.7 km/h at 1.7 m elevation spraying 2.4 L/min were able to provide >97% and >92% coverage of a 1 m and 2 m wide swath respectively. During spraying operations using 1 mg/L aqueous ozone, atmospheric concentrations of ozone remained within background levels (<0.04 ppm). Highly efficient inactivation of two different isolates of SARS-CoV-2 virus was achieved at aqueous ozone concentrations of 0.75 mg/L after an incubation period of only 5 min, with 0.375 mg/L achieving 82-91.5% inactivation in this time. Exposure of diamondback moth larvae and parasitic wasps to 1 mg/L aqueous ozone did not significantly affect their survivorship. These results indicate for the first time that aqueous ozone may provide the required balance between human and environmental safety and viral inactivation efficacy for targeted application in high risk outdoor settings.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Disinfectants , Ozone , Disinfection , Humans , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2
15.
Vaccines (Basel) ; 9(2)2021 Jan 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1045356

ABSTRACT

Subunit vaccines exhibit favorable safety and immunogenicity profiles and can be designed to mimic native antigen structures. However, pairing with an appropriate adjuvant is imperative in order to elicit effective humoral and cellular immune responses. In this study, we aimed to determine an optimal adjuvant pairing with the prefusion form of influenza haemagglutinin (HA) or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fusion (F) subunit vaccines in BALB/c mice in order to inform future subunit vaccine adjuvant selection. We tested a panel of adjuvants, including aluminum hydroxide (alhydrogel), QS21, Addavax, Addavax with QS21 (AdQS21), and Army Liposome Formulation 55 with monophosphoryl lipid A and QS21 (ALF55). We found that all adjuvants elicited robust humoral responses in comparison to placebo, with the induction of potent neutralizing antibodies observed in all adjuvanted groups against influenza and in AdQS21, alhydrogel, and ALF55 against RSV. Upon HA vaccination, we observed that none of the adjuvants were able to significantly increase the frequency of CD4+ and CD8+ IFN-γ+ cells when compared to unadjuvanted antigen. The varying responses to antigens with each adjuvant highlights that those adjuvants most suited for pairing purposes can vary depending on the antigen used and/or the desired immune response. We therefore suggest that an adjuvant trial for different subunit vaccines in development would likely be necessary in preclinical studies.

16.
Front Immunol ; 11: 592370, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-937449

ABSTRACT

Prior to 2020, the threat of a novel viral pandemic was omnipresent but largely ignored. Just 12 months prior to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic our team received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to establish and validate a rapid response pipeline for subunit vaccine development based on our proprietary Molecular Clamp platform. Throughout the course of 2019 we conducted two mock tests of our system for rapid antigen production against two potential, emerging viral pathogens, Achimota paramyxovirus and Wenzhou mammarenavirus. For each virus we expressed a small panel of recombinant variants of the membrane fusion protein and screened for expression level, product homogeneity, and the presence of the expected trimeric pre-fusion conformation. Lessons learned from this exercise paved the way for our response to COVID-19, for which our candidate antigen is currently in phase I clinical trial.


Subject(s)
Drug Design , Vaccines, Subunit , Animals , Arenaviridae , COVID-19 Vaccines , Civil Defense , Clinical Trials as Topic , Humans , Molecular Structure , Paramyxovirinae/immunology , Time Factors , Vaccines, Subunit/chemistry , Viral Vaccines
17.
J Gen Virol ; 102(1)2021 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-873186

ABSTRACT

Although enveloped viruses canonically mediate particle entry through virus-cell fusion, certain viruses can spread by cell-cell fusion, brought about by receptor engagement and triggering of membrane-bound, viral-encoded fusion proteins on the surface of cells. The formation of pathogenic syncytia or multinucleated cells is seen in vivo, but their contribution to viral pathogenesis is poorly understood. For the negative-strand paramyxoviruses respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Nipah virus (NiV), cell-cell spread is highly efficient because their oligomeric fusion protein complexes are active at neutral pH. The recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has also been reported to induce syncytia formation in infected cells, with the spike protein initiating cell-cell fusion. Whilst it is well established that fusion protein-specific antibodies can block particle attachment and/or entry into the cell (canonical virus neutralization), their capacity to inhibit cell-cell fusion and the consequences of this neutralization for the control of infection are not well characterized, in part because of the lack of specific tools to assay and quantify this activity. Using an adapted bimolecular fluorescence complementation assay, based on a split GFP-Renilla luciferase reporter, we have established a micro-fusion inhibition test (mFIT) that allows the identification and quantification of these neutralizing antibodies. This assay has been optimized for high-throughput use and its applicability has been demonstrated by screening monoclonal antibody (mAb)-mediated inhibition of RSV and NiV fusion and, separately, the development of fusion-inhibitory antibodies following NiV vaccine immunization in pigs. In light of the recent emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a similar assay was developed for SARS-CoV-2 and used to screen mAbs and convalescent patient plasma for fusion-inhibitory antibodies. Using mFITs to assess antibody responses following natural infection or vaccination is favourable, as this assay can be performed entirely at low biocontainment, without the need for live virus. In addition, the repertoire of antibodies that inhibit cell-cell fusion may be different to those that inhibit particle entry, shedding light on the mechanisms underpinning antibody-mediated neutralization of viral spread.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Neutralizing/pharmacology , Antibodies, Viral/pharmacology , COVID-19/diagnosis , Henipavirus Infections/diagnosis , High-Throughput Screening Assays , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/diagnosis , Viral Fusion Proteins/antagonists & inhibitors , Animals , Antibodies, Neutralizing/isolation & purification , Antibodies, Neutralizing/metabolism , Antibodies, Viral/isolation & purification , Antibodies, Viral/metabolism , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/virology , Cell Fusion , Convalescence , Genes, Reporter , Green Fluorescent Proteins/genetics , Green Fluorescent Proteins/metabolism , HEK293 Cells , Henipavirus Infections/immunology , Henipavirus Infections/virology , Humans , Immune Sera/chemistry , Luciferases/genetics , Luciferases/metabolism , Models, Molecular , Nipah Virus/immunology , Nipah Virus/pathogenicity , Protein Conformation , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/immunology , Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/virology , Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human/immunology , Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human/pathogenicity , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Swine , Viral Fusion Protein Inhibitors/chemistry , Viral Fusion Protein Inhibitors/metabolism , Viral Fusion Protein Inhibitors/pharmacology , Viral Fusion Proteins/genetics , Viral Fusion Proteins/immunology
18.
Microbiol. Australia ; 2(41): 109-112, 20200601.
Article in English | WHO COVID, ELSEVIER | ID: covidwho-593896

ABSTRACT

The SARS-Cov2 has presented the world with a novel pandemic challenge requiring a rapid response. This article provides a May 2020 snapshot from Professor Paul Young, who is part of a group working with urgency on Australia's leading COVID-19 candidate vaccine.

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