The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has caused an ongoing global health crisis. Here, we present as a vaccine candidate synthetic SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein-coated lipid vesicles that resemble virus-like particles. Soluble S glycoprotein trimer stabilization by formaldehyde cross-linking introduces two major inter-protomer cross-links that keep all receptor-binding domains in the "down" conformation. Immunization of cynomolgus macaques with S coated onto lipid vesicles (S-LVs) induces high antibody titers with potent neutralizing activity against the vaccine strain, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants as well as T helper (Th)1 CD4+-biased T cell responses. Although anti-receptor-binding domain (RBD)-specific antibody responses are initially predominant, the third immunization boosts significant non-RBD antibody titers. Challenging vaccinated animals with SARS-CoV-2 shows a complete protection through sterilizing immunity, which correlates with the presence of nasopharyngeal anti-S immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgA titers. Thus, the S-LV approach is an efficient and safe vaccine candidate based on a proven classical approach for further development and clinical testing.
Keywords: B cells; COVID-19; S glycoprotein; SARS-CoV-2; antibodies; formaldehyde cross-linking; immunity; macaques; nanoparticles; protection.
© 2022 The Authors.