The development of a safe and effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is a global priority due to the current high SARS-CoV-2 infection rate. Currently, there are over 160 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates at the clinical or pre-clinical stages of development. Of these, there are only three whole-virus vaccine candidates produced using β-propiolactone or formalin inactivation. Here, we prepared a whole-virus SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (SARS-CoV-2 PsIV) using a novel psoralen inactivation method and evaluated its immunogenicity in mice using two different adjuvants, alum and Advax-2. We compared the immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 PsIV against SARS-CoV-2 DNA vaccines expressing either full-length or truncated spike proteins. We also compared the psoralen-inactivated vaccine against a DNA prime, psoralen-inactivated vaccine boost regimen. After two doses, the psoralen-inactivated vaccine, when administered with alum or Advax-2 adjuvants, generated a dose-dependent neutralizing antibody responses in mice. Overall, the pattern of cytokine ELISPOT responses to antigen-stimulation observed in this study indicates that SARS-CoV-2 PsIV with the alum adjuvant promotes a Th2-type response, while SARS-CoV-2 PsIV with the Advax-2 adjuvant promotes a Th1-type response.
Keywords: 4′-aminomethyl-4,5′,8-trimethylpsoralen (AMT); Advax-2; COVID-19; DNA vaccine; SARS-CoV-2; anti-SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies; conformational epitopes of surface antigens; prime-boost; psoralen-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.