A New Approach To Generating Broad-Spectrum Coronavirus Vaccines

Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) discovered that 2003 SARS survivors who received the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine produced highly potent functional antibodies capable of neutralizing not only all known SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) but also other animal coronaviruses with the potential to cause human disease.

A New Approach To Generating Broad-Spectrum Coronavirus Vaccines

This discovery, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to show such cross-neutralizing reactivity in people, and it raises expectations for the development of an efficient and broad-spectrum next-generation vaccination against several coronaviruses.

One subgroup of the coronavirus family uses the ACE2 molecule to enter human cells. This category includes SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 and a variety of coronaviruses found in bats, pangolins, and civets. While the precise mode of transmission is unclear, these viruses can spread from animals to people and spark the next pandemic.

A New Approach To Generating Broad-Spectrum Coronavirus Vaccines

Dr. Chee Wah Tan, Senior Research, (EID) Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, is a study co-first author to test their theory. The researchers enlisted the help of eight individuals who had recovered from SARS-CoV-1, the virus that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak, as well as 10 healthy people and ten COVID-19 survivors. They next examined the immunological responses of the three groups before and after the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine vaccination.

They were particularly interested in whether the neutralizing antibodies produced in the SARS-Vaccinated group might eliminate both SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 viruses, as well as additional sarbecoviruses, including possibly zoonotic sarbecoviruses seen in bats and pangolins.

According to Dr. Wanni Chia, before vaccination, SARS-CoV-1 survivors exhibited detectable anti-SARS-CoV-1 neutralizing antibodies but no or low-level anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies. After receiving two doses of the mRNA vaccine, all participants demonstrated significant levels of neutralizing antibodies against both SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-.  Dr. Wanni Chia states that most significantly, they are the only group with a wide range of neutralizing antibodies against the 10 sarbecoviruses studied.

Corresponding senior author Professor Wang Linfa of the Duke-NUS EID program believes that the study points to a novel strategy for the development of next-generation vaccines, which will not only help us control the current COVID-19 pandemic but may also prevent or reduce the risk of future pandemics caused by related viruses,

Professor Wang’s team made an excellent coincidental finding in the Singapore COVID-19 Vaccine Immune Response and Protection Study (SCOPE), which NCID manages. Because new variants of concern have already shown immune resistance against first-generation vaccinations, this finding has the potential to solve that issue as the globe continues COVID-19 immunization to exit the epidemic. Professor David Lye, Director of the NCID’s Infectious Disease Research and Training Office and co-corresponding author of the research, also said that this has the potential to be a very promising preventative vaccination against future coronavirus pandemics.

According to Dr. Tan and Dr. Chia, the enhanced multiplex sVNT enables the simultaneous detection of neutralizing antibodies against several sarbecoviruses in a single tube, which is critical in studies like these that need precise side-by-side comparisons of neutralizing antibody levels against distinct viruses.

The team is now undertaking proof-of-concept research to create a third-generation vaccine against various coronaviruses 3GCoVax and broadly neutralizing antibodies for treatment. They are searching for people who recovered from SARS illness in 2003.

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