Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Immunogenicity and efficacy of the COVID-19 candidate vector vaccine MVA-SARS-2-S in preclinical vaccination

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has emerged as the infectious agent causing the pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with dramatic consequences for global human health and economics. Previously, we reached clinical evaluation with our vector vaccine based on modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which causes an infection in humans similar to SARS and COVID-19. Here, we describe the construction and preclinical characterization of a recombinant MVA expressing full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein (MVA-SARS-2-S). Genetic stability and growth characteristics of MVA-SARS-2-S, plus its robust expression of S protein as antigen, make it a suitable candidate vaccine for industrial-scale production. Vaccinated mice produced S-specific CD8+ T cells and serum antibodies binding to S protein that neutralized SARS-CoV-2. Prime-boost vaccination with MVA-SARS-2-S protected mice sensitized with a human ACE2-expressing adenovirus from SARS-CoV-2 infection. MVA-SARS-2-S is currently being investigated in a phase I clinical trial as aspirant for developing a safe and efficacious vaccine against COVID-19.

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