MVA-vectored universal beta-coronavirus vaccine design & development

Vaccine Insights 2023; 2(5), 201–211

DOI: 10.18609/vac.2023.032

Published: 28 June 2023
Expert Insight
Mark J Newman, Mary J Hauser, Arban Domi, Sreeharshini Oruganti, Pratima Kumari, Ashley Zuniga

Coronaviruses capable of infecting humans have circulated within the population and are well known to the scientific community. These viruses generally cause mild-moderate and recurring respiratory infections but pose minimal serious health risks. However, the more recent emergence of SARS-CoV-1, CoV-2, and MERS clearly demonstrate the risk of new coronavirus ‘spillover events’ from animal hosts, and this risk can be addressed proactively. A significant level of antigenic variation exists for the Spike protein amongst the coronaviruses that can infect humans and include the evolving variants of SARS-CoV-2. This is a well-recognized hurdle for vaccine development where the focus is on the induction of neutralizing antibody responses. However, a significant level of sequence and antigenic similarity is also known to exist, especially for the nucleocapsid, membrane proteins, and most of the non-structural proteins, and these conserved proteins are targets of the T cell arm of the immune system. Using modern viral vector-based vaccine technologies, it is feasible to design and develop vaccines capable of inducing T cell responses specific to multiple conserved viral proteins, providing a breadth of antiviral function and specificity. Vaccines of this type could serve as the basis for better targeting both SARS-CoV-2 as well as other beta-coronaviruses in a controlled prevention manner. This type of vaccine could be used as a booster to standard-of-care products or specifically for the benefit of unique patient populations where vaccine failure is common. Critically, we could return to a focus on prophylaxis, the prevention of disease through controlled vaccine campaign strategies using products that induce durable immune responses, including immunological memory.