US Scientists Develop Ultrapotent COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

The study, published in the journal Cell, noted that the vaccine generates 10 times more neutralising antibodies in mice, even at a 6-fold lower vaccine dose.

An ultrapotent nanoparticle vaccine has been developed as a candidate against COVID-19. Researchers, including the one from University of Washington claim that the vaccine produces “extremely high” immunogenic antibodies.

Published in the journal Cell, the findings show that the vaccine produces virus neutralizing antibodies in mice ten times more than seen in COVID-19 recoveries. This also was in comparison to the SARS-COV-2 Spike protein which is being used for COVID vaccines. The new “ultrapotent” candidate also produces this effect even at a six time lower dose. With many researchers claiming about the quick loss of immunity post infection, the vaccine shows a strong B-cell response which is critical for a durable immune memory and effect.

The vaccine was developed using a structure based design. The self assembling protein nanoparticle displays sixty copies of the SARS-COV-2 Spike protein’s receptors to give a high immunity. The molecular structure of the vaccine is similar to that of the virus, which may be another contributing factor to its potency.

On a nonhuman primate, the dosage resulted in production of neutralizing antibodies targeting multiple sites of the Spike protein on the structure of the coronavirus, which makes its entry in the human system easier. Researchers also state that the vaccine may help in protection against mutated strains of the virus.

“We hope that our nanoparticle platform may help fight this pandemic that is causing so much damage to our world. The potency, stability, and manufacturability of this vaccine candidate differentiate it from many others under investigation”, said Neil King, inventor of the computational vaccine design technology at the Institute for Protein Design at UW School of Medicine.

The importance of an ultrapotent vaccine lies in the time and effort mass manufacturing and distribution of multiple vaccines is estimated to take. The lead vaccine candidate from this development is being licensed by the University of Washington, non exclusively and royalty free. Another licensee, Icosavax, Inc, is currently advancing studies to show the regulatory functions of the vaccine and begun the process of manufacturing with the US Food and Drug Administration. Amgen, Inc, a pharmaceutical company has decided to hasten the process, agreeing to manufacture a key ingredient for these clinical studies.  A South Korean pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience, Co. Ltd , too has begun advancing it’s own studies to accelerate clinical developments.

“I am delighted that our studies of antibody responses to coronaviruses led to the design of this promising vaccine candidate,” said  David Veesler, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at University of Washington, School of  Medicine.   The lead authors of the Cell paper are Alexandra Walls, a research scientist, David Veesler, Brooke Fiala, a research scientist, and Neil King, Assistant Professor of biochemistry at the UW School of Medicine.

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