Posted: Octover 12, 2022
Authors: Jian Hang Lam, Devendra Shivhare, Teck Wan Chia, Suet Li Chew, Gaurav Sinsinbar, Ting Yan Aw, Siamy Wong, Shrinivas Venkataraman, Francesca Wei Inng Lim, Pierre Vandepapeliere and Madhavan Nallani
Current parenteral coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines inadequately protect against infection of the upper respiratory tract. Additionally, antibodies generated by wild type (WT) spike-based vaccines poorly neutralize severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants. To address the need for a second-generation vaccine, we have initiated a preclinical program to produce and evaluate a potential candidate. Our vaccine consists of recombinant Beta spike protein coadministered with synthetic CpG adjuvant. Both components are encapsulated within artificial cell membrane (ACM) polymersomes, synthetic nanovesicles efficiently internalized by antigen presenting cells, including dendritic cells, enabling targeted delivery of cargo for enhanced immune responses. ACM vaccine is immunogenic in C57BL/6 mice and Golden Syrian hamsters, evoking high serum IgG and neutralizing responses. Compared to an ACM-WT spike vaccine that generates predominantly WT-neutralizing antibodies, the ACM-Beta spike vaccine induces antibodies that neutralize WT and Beta viruses equally. Intramuscular (IM)-immunized hamsters are strongly protected from weight loss and other clinical symptoms after the Beta challenge but show delayed viral clearance in the upper airway. With intranasal (IN) immunization, however, neutralizing antibodies are generated in the upper airway concomitant with rapid and potent reduction of viral load. Moreover, antibodies are cross-neutralizing and show good activity against Omicron. Safety is evaluated in New Zealand white rabbits in a repeated dose toxicological study under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) conditions. Three doses, IM or IN, at two-week intervals do not induce an adverse effect or systemic toxicity. Cumulatively, these results support the application for a Phase 1 clinical trial of ACM-polymersome-based Covid-19 vaccine (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT05385991).