Engineering Euglena gracilis as a heterologous protein expression system for the production of COVID19 vaccines and diagnostic antigens
SARS-CoV-2 (SC2) is a novel coronavirus that has rapidly spread across the world causing the unprecedented COVID‑19 crisis. The growing impact of COVID‑19 on human health and the global economy has highlighted the urgent need for tools to surveil the circulating virus, and effective vaccines to protect against the virus. The SC2 spike protein, characteristic of the virus, has been identified as a leading candidate for vaccine development and serology testing applications. Viral antigens like the spike protein are typically produced using microbes like yeast and bacteria. Through a partnership with Trent University and Noblegen Inc. in Peterborough, Ontario, we will leverage the many advantages of Euglena gracilis over other antigen producing microorganisms and use state-of-the-art techniques in genetic engineering to develop a Euglena-based antigen factory for a subunit of the SC2 spike protein. Euglena is a great organism to use for the proposed research because it is easy to grow in large quantities and naturally produces beneficial molecules like paramylon that can improve the effectiveness of microalgae-based vaccines. Moreover, Euglena products have been deemed safe for human consumption, thus presenting new avenues to access edible vaccines. After demonstration of antigen production by Euglena, the developed system will be optimized for the mass production of SC2 antigens, but also other antigens, that can be used for vaccines and serological testing applications.