Vaccine efficacy in nonhuman primates against SARS-CoV-2: protection, cross-protection and immune enhancement

Falzarano, Darryl | $1,459,325

Saskatchewan University of Saskatchewan 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

In December 2019 a novel coronavirus (CoV) was identified as the cause of pneumonia in a cluster of patients in Wuhan, China. This virus is related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV and has been named SARS-CoV-2. Since then (in only the last 5 months) this virus, has caused a global pandemic resulting in 4.2 million cases and over 288,000 deaths. Quarantine measures have not been sufficient to interrupt transmission despite near world-wide unprecedented disruptions of normal activities. Since its identification we have been working on making a vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2. This vaccine contains a portion of the spike protein (the protein that is present on the surface of the virus) and when delivered to animals, induces an immune response. So far, we have shown that this vaccine can cause an immune response in ferrets, and early data suggests that to is also protective. To ensure that this vaccine is safe, immunogenic and effective we propose to test it in a nonhuman primate model of SARS-CoV-2. Typically nonhuman primates are the animal model that most closely resembles what happens in humans. To do this rapidly, we will vaccinated animals at the National Microbiology Laboratory with our vaccine to determine whether it induces the kind of immune response we want to see. Namely, whether it induces antibodies that are capable of blocking infection – called neutralizing antibodies. Finally, we want to demonstrate that this vaccine actually protects the animals from infection and does not cause any deleterious events, so animals will be infected and monitored to determine whether the vaccine stops infection. Subsequent experiments to support this data will be performed at VIDO-InterVac. Together this work will increase the capacity to assess other vaccine concepts that are being worked on across Canada to identify the best approach to stop transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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