Newcastle disease virus (NDV) expressing the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 as vaccine candidate

bioRxiv. 2020 Jul 28;2020.07.26.221861. doi: 10.1101/2020.07.26.221861. Preprint


Due to the lack of protective immunity of humans towards the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2, this virus has caused a massive pandemic across the world resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Thus, a vaccine is urgently needed to contain the spread of the virus. Here, we describe Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vector vaccines expressing the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 in its wild type or a pre-fusion membrane anchored format. All described NDV vector vaccines grow to high titers in embryonated chicken eggs. In a proof of principle mouse study, we report that the NDV vector vaccines elicit high levels of antibodies that are neutralizing when the vaccine is given intramuscularly. Importantly, these COVID-19 vaccine candidates protect mice from a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 challenge with no detectable viral titer and viral antigen in the lungs.

Research in context: Evidence before this study: The spike (S) protein of the SARS-CoV-2 is the major antigen that notably induces neutralizing antibodies to block viral entry. Many COVID-19 vaccines are under development, among them viral vectors expressing the S protein of SARS-CoV-2 exhibit many benefits. Viral vector vaccines have the potential of being used as both live or inactivated vaccines and they can induce Th1 and Th2-based immune responses following different immunization regimens. Additionally, viral vector vaccines can be handled under BSL-2 conditions and they grow to high titers in cell cultures or other species restricted-hosts. For a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, several viral vectors are being tested, such as adenovirus, measles virus and Modified vaccinia Ankara.Added value of this study: The NDV vector vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 described in this study has advantages similar to those of other viral vector vaccines. But the NDV vector can be amplified in embryonated chicken eggs, which allows for high yields and low costs per dose. Also, the NDV vector is not a human pathogen, therefore the delivery of the foreign antigen would not be compromised by any pre-existing immunity in humans. Finally, NDV has a very good safety record in humans, as it has been used in many oncolytic virus trials. This study provides an important option for a cost-effective SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.Implications of all the available evidence: This study informs of the value of a viral vector vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, for this NDV based SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, the existing egg-based influenza virus vaccine manufactures in the U.S. and worldwide would have the capacity to rapidly produce hundreds of millions of doses to mitigate the consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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