Purification of SARS-CoV-2 Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) Using a Microfluidic Technique for Downstream COVID‑19 Vaccine Production

Poudineh, Mahla | $50,000

Ontario University of Waterloo 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

COVID‑19 has become a pandemic primarily because there are no existing treatments. Thus, ending this world health crisis requires the rapid development of vaccines and therapeutics.

Mediphage Bioceuticals, Inc. (MBI) is producing specific DNA vaccines based on virus-like particles (VLPs). VLPs are multiprotein structures that closely resemble viruses and can elicit strong immune response. VLPs are completely safe and not infectious because they do not contain any viral genetic material. To produce SARS-CoV-2 VLPs, MBI uses insect cell culture where following the VLP formation, cells are lysed for VLPs extraction. MBI urgently requires a technique to rapidly purify the VLPs from cell lysates with high efficiency and throughput while the quality of VLPs is preserved for downstream vaccine production.

In this project, MBI and the Poudineh group at the University of Waterloo will develop such a system based on microfluidic technology. Microfluidics enables rapid, cost-effective, and high through target purification. In this project, we combine bead-based assay to capture specifically the VLPs based on their surface proteins and design and fabricate a microfluidic device that can isolate the bead-VLP complex, enabling to retrieve the VLPs. Specifically, the system combines three modules: a mixing device where the VLPs are mixed with beads coated with the capture agent; a separation module which isolates the beads from the rest of contaminating molecules; and a dissociation chamber where the VLPs are recovered.

The success of this project addresses the MBI’s urgent need to purify SARS-CoV-2 VLPs where the microfluidic system will be integrated into their vaccine production line.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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