The identification of human broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) targeting the hemagglutinin (HA) stem revitalized hopes of developing a universal influenza vaccine. Using a rational design and library approach, we engineered stable HA stem antigens ("mini-HAs") based on an H1 subtype sequence. Our most advanced candidate exhibits structural and bnAb binding properties comparable to those of full-length HA, completely protects mice in lethal heterologous and heterosubtypic challenge models, and reduces fever after sublethal challenge in cynomolgus monkeys. Antibodies elicited by this mini-HA in mice and nonhuman primates bound a wide range of HAs, competed with human bnAbs for HA stem binding, neutralized H5N1 viruses, and mediated antibody-dependent effector activity. These results represent a proof of concept for the design of HA stem mimics that elicit bnAbs against influenza A group 1 viruses.
Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.