COVID-19 vaccine efficacy is threatened by emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) with the capacity to evade protective neutralizing antibody responses. We recently developed clinical vaccine candidate COH04S1, a synthetic modified vaccinia Ankara vector (sMVA) co-expressing spike and nucleocapsid antigens based on the Wuhan-Hu-1 reference strain that showed potent efficacy to protect against ancestral SARS-CoV-2 in Syrian hamsters and non-human primates and was safe and immunogenic in healthy volunteers. Here, we demonstrate that intramuscular immunization of Syrian hamsters with COH04S1 and an analogous Beta variant-adapted vaccine candidate (COH04S351) elicits potent cross-reactive antibody responses and protects against weight loss, lower respiratory tract infection, and lung pathology following challenge with major SARS-CoV-2 VOC, including Beta and the highly contagious Delta variant. These results demonstrate efficacy of COH04S1 and a variant-adapted vaccine analog to confer cross-protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and its emerging VOC, supporting clinical investigation of these sMVA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
Keywords: Biological sciences; Immunology; Virology.
© 2022 The Author(s).