Argonne’s advanced photon source has led the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine that is now in trial

Clinical trials in humans have begun with a new candidate for a vaccine that can protect not only from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but also from at least two variants appearing around the world. The development of this new vaccine has been guided by structural information about the virus obtained from the Advanced Photon Source (APS), the Energy Center (DOE) Science Center User Center at the DOE National Argonne Laboratory, and other light sources.

The experiments are being conducted at the Walter Reed Institute for Military Research (WRAIR), part of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, following early tests that showed promising results.

Structural biological work is useful in terms of knowing that a vaccine design can bind to protective antibodies and see exactly where they bind to the virus. That two pieces of information are the bread and butter that helped us make the vaccine design. “

Dr. Gordon Joyce, Head of the Department of Structural Biology at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine

The new vaccine, called spiked ferritin nanoparticle (SpFN), uses a multifaceted sphere design, which mimics the virus itself, with protruding spikes. In addition to creating a strong immune response, vaccine design can help provide broader protection, protecting against virus mutations. Preclinical studies show that SpFN induces highly potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as two main variants – B.1.1.7, first seen in the UK and B.1.351, first seen in South Africa. – and the SARS-CoV-1 virus, which caused a serious outbreak of acute respiratory syndrome in the early 2000s.

Since January 2020, APS has made its resources available to the world scientific community for COVID-19 research, and the ultra-bright X-rays they generate have helped scientists identify more than 160 protein structures that make up SARS-CoV-2.

“We used APS to create high-resolution protein structures and we used that information as a major component of the pipeline for the development of our vaccine,” said Dr. Gordon Joyce, Head of the Department of Structural Biology at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HFJ), supporting WRAIR. Joyce developed this new vaccine with Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Division (EIDB) at WRAIR, who is leading the military’s efforts to research COVID-19 vaccines.

Joyce, Modjarrad, and colleagues used a technique called crystallography — basically illuminating X-rays on synthetic protein crystals grown with specific antibodies to capture detailed images of spike virus proteins — to test whether their nanoparticles have the correct structure and function. elicit an immune response that can neutralize the virus.

“Structural biological work is useful in terms of knowing that vaccine design can bind to protective antibodies and see exactly where they bind to the virus,” Joyce said. “Those two facts are the bread and butter that helped us design the vaccine.”

Joyce has helped accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines thanks to work done on APS and other light sources around the world. He said that the long-term goal of the research includes the use of crystallography to search for a vaccine against all variants of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses, in order to overcome future epidemics.

APS has also played a key role in the development of all three COVID-19 vaccines currently being distributed in the United States.

A phase 1 study of this new vaccine is being conducted at the WRAIR Center for Clinical Trials and will include 72 healthy adult volunteers aged 18 to 55 years. Participants will be randomly placed in placebo or experimental groups. WRAIR also provides expertise and support to the U.S. federal government’s inter-agency response aimed at accelerating the development of other COVID-19 vaccines, therapy, and diagnostics.

“We have been in this for a long time,” Modjarrad said. “We have designed and positioned this platform as a next-generation vaccine, paving the way for a universal vaccine to protect not only from the current virus, but also to counter future variants, stopping them on the way before they can cause a new pandemic.”

The SpFN clinical trial is sponsored by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC). The vaccine was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute for Infectious Disease Research (WRAIR) in collaboration with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF). Funding was provided by the Defense Health Agency and was partially implemented through a cooperation agreement between WRAIR and HJF (CA # W81XWH-18-2-0040).

The experiment was registered at clinictrials.gov: https: //clinical trials.gov /ct2 /show /NCT04784767

The advanced photon source is the US Department of Energy Office of Science User Tool, provided by the DOE Science Office for the Argonne National Laboratory. Additional funding for the rays used for the COVID-19 research at APS is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the DOE Office of Science for Biological and Environmental Research. Additional support for the COVID-19 research was provided by the DOE Office of Science through the National Virtual Laboratory for Biotechnology, a consortium of national DOE laboratories focused on responding to COVID-19 with funding provided by the Coronavirus Act.

Source:

DOE / Argonne National Laboratory

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