Published on Wed Jul 07 2021

Receptor-binding domain recombinant protein RBD219-N1C1 on alum-CpG induces broad protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern

Pollet, J., Strych, U., Chen, W.-H., Versteeg, L., Keegan, B., Zhan, B., Wei, J., Liu, Z., Lee, J., Kundu, R., Adhikari, R., Poveda, C., Villar, M. J., Lopez, B., Gillespie, P. M., Ronca, S., Kimata, J. T., Reers, M., Paradkar, V., Hotez, P., Bottazzi, M. E.

We conducted preclinical studies in mice using a yeast-produced SARS-CoV-2 RBD219-N1C1 subunit vaccine candidate formulated with aluminum hydroxide (alum) and CpG deoxynucleotides. Mice were immunized twice intramuscularly at a 21-day interval.

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Abstract

We conducted preclinical studies in mice using a yeast-produced SARS-CoV-2 RBD219-N1C1 subunit vaccine candidate formulated with aluminum hydroxide (alum) and CpG deoxynucleotides. This vaccine formulation is similar to one that entered advanced phase 3 clinical development in India. We compared the immune response of mice vaccinated with RBD219-N1C1/alum to mice vaccinated with RBD219-N1C1/alum+CpG. We also evaluated mice immunized with RBD219-N1C1/alum+CpG and boosted with RBD219-N1C1/alum. Mice were immunized twice intramuscularly at a 21-day interval. Compared to two doses of the RBD219-N1C1/alum formulation, the RBD219-N1C1/alum+CpG vaccine induced a stronger and more balanced Th1/Th2 cellular immune response, with high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the original Wuhan isolate of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta) and B.1.617.1 (Kappa) variants. Notably, the sera from mice that received two 7 g doses of RBD219-N1C1/alum+CpG showed more than 18 times higher neutralizing antibody titers against B.1.351, than the WHO International Standard for anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin NIBSC 20/136. Interestingly, a booster dose did not require the addition of CpG to induce this effect. The data reported here reinforces that the RBD219-N1C1/alum+CpG vaccine formulation is suitable for inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 including three variants of concern, B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), and B.1.617.1 (Kappa).