SARS-CoV-2 virus-like particles (VLPs) were generated through a collaboration between the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine and TechnoVax as the organizations work toward developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Paul Gottlieb, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at CUNY, told us the technology relies on the assembly of SARS-CoV-2 VLPs that mimic the structure of the virus in size, morphology and surface composition but do not have the genetic material of the virus that causes infection.
The COVID-19 VLPs were assembled in a suspension culture of mammalian cells from the structural elements of coronavirus, and modified surface spike molecules, which are used to ensure immunogenic properties within the potential vaccine. Gottlieb told us that that uniquely modified surface spike molecules locked into the shape found prior to that observed when the virus binds to cells of the respiratory tract and lung tissue.
“This particular protein shape is anticipated to be the highly immunogenic conformation capable of inducing the production of potent neutralizing antibodies,” said Gottlieb.
The technology of this type of VLP created a particulate nature of the composition that exhibited an array of the uniquely modified spike which provides additional immune stimulation. This type of stimulation is “highly desirable,” according to Gottlieb, for a no-replicating infectious vaccine composition.
According to the organizations, electron microscopy studies of purified VLPs created from this platform show a high frequency of spikes from the surface of particles. Researchers Paul Gottlieb and Reza Khayat stated that the stabilized surface spikes are potentially highly immunogenic. Additionally, the electron microscopy studies showed that the morphology of the structure resembles the native SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In a statement, Jose Galarza, CEO of TechnoVax, said that this platform is “most likely” to accelerate the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 as it uses technology that is distinct from current COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
The VLP technology platform has been used to create vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HepB), both of which have been proven highly effective in eliciting immune responses.