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A Highly Immunogenic Measles Virus-based Th1-biased COVID-19 Vaccine

By Cindy Hörner, Christoph Schürmann, Arne Auste, Aileen Ebenig, Samada Muraleedharan, Maike Herrmann, Barbara Schnierle, Michael D. Mühlebach

Posted 11 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.11.198291

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and has spread world-wide with millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths to date. The gravity of the situation mandates accelerated efforts to identify safe and effective vaccines. Here, we generated measles virus (MeV)-based vaccine candidates expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (S). Insertion of the full-length S protein gene in two different MeV genomic positions resulted in modulated S protein expression. The variant with lower S protein expression levels was genetically stable and induced high levels of effective Th1-biased antibody and T cell responses in mice after two immunizations. In addition to neutralizing IgG antibody responses in a protective range, multifunctional CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses with S protein-specific killing activity were detected. These results are highly encouraging and support further development of MeV-based COVID-19 vaccines. Significance: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, yet. Therefore, effective vaccine concepts are urgently needed. In search for such a concept, we have analysed a measles virus-based vaccine candidate targeting SARS-CoV-2. Using this well known, safe vaccine backbone, we demonstrate here induction of functional immune responses in both arms of adaptive immunity with the desired immune bias. Therefore, occurrence of immunopathologies such as antibody-dependent enhancement or enhanced respiratory disease is rather unlikely. Moreover, the candidate still induces immunity against the measles, recognized as a looming second menace, when countries are entrapped to stop routine vaccination campaigns in the face of COVID-19. Thus, a bivalent measles-based COVID-19 vaccine could be the solution for two significant public health threats. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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