The speed at which several COVID-19 vaccines went from conception to receiving FDA and EMA approval for emergency use is an achievement unrivaled in the history of vaccine development. Mass vaccination efforts using the highly effective vaccines are currently underway to generate sufficient herd immunity and reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Despite the most advanced vaccine technology, global recipient coverage, especially in resource-poor areas remains a challenge as genetic drift in naïve population pockets threatens overall vaccine efficacy. In this study, we described the production of insect-cell expressed SARS-CoV-2 spike protein ectodomain constructs and examined their immunogenicity in mice. We demonstrated that, when formulated with CoVaccine HTTM adjuvant, an oil-in-water nanoemulsion compatible with lyophilization, our vaccine candidates elicit a broad-spectrum IgG response, high neutralizing antibody (NtAb) titers against SARS-CoV-2 prototype and variants of concern, specifically B.1.351 (Beta) and P.1. (Gamma), and an antigen-specific IFN-γ secreting response in outbred mice. Of note, different ectodomain constructs yielded variations in NtAb titers against the prototype strain and some VOC. Dose response experiments indicated that NtAb titers increased with antigen dose, but not adjuvant dose, and may be higher with a lower adjuvant dose. Our findings lay the immunological foundation for the development of a dry-thermostabilized vaccine that is deployable without refrigeration.
Keywords: Adjuvant; CoVaccine HTTM; Recombinant protein; SARS-CoV-2 vaccine; Spike glycoprotein.
© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.