Replication-restricted modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is a licensed smallpox vaccine and numerous clinical studies investigating recombinant MVAs (rMVAs) as vectors for prevention of other infectious diseases have been completed or are in progress. Two rMVA COVID-19 vaccine trials are at an initial stage, though no animal protection studies have been reported. Here, we characterize rMVAs expressing the S protein of CoV-2. Modifications of full length S individually or in combination included two proline substitutions, mutations of the furin recognition site and deletion of the endoplasmic retrieval signal. Another rMVA in which the receptor binding domain (RBD) flanked by the signal peptide and transmembrane domains of S was also constructed. Each modified S protein was displayed on the surface of rMVA-infected human cells and was recognized by anti-RBD antibody and by soluble hACE2 receptor. Intramuscular injection of mice with the rMVAs induced S-binding and pseudovirus-neutralizing antibodies. Boosting occurred following a second homologous rMVA but was higher with adjuvanted purified RBD protein. Weight loss and lethality following intranasal infection of transgenic hACE2 mice with CoV-2 was prevented by one or two im...Continue Reading
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