Toxicity and Local Tolerance of a Novel Spike Protein RBD Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2, Produced Using the C1 Thermothelomyces Heterothallica Protein Expression Platform

Yuval Ramot, Noam Kronfeld, Yakir Ophir, Nati Ezov, Sheli Friedman, Markku Saloheimo, Marika Vitikainen, Hanna Ben-Artzi, Avi Avigdor, Ronen Tchelet, Noelia Valbuena Crespo, Mark Emalfarb, Abraham Nyska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and there is a growing demand for safe and effective vaccines. The thermophilic Thermothelomyces heterothallica filamentous fungal host, C1-cell, can be utilized as an expression platform for the rapid production of large quantities of antigens for developing vaccines. The aim of this study was to evaluate the local tolerance and the systemic toxicity of a C1-cell expressed receptor-binding domain (C1-RBD) vaccine, following repeated weekly intramuscular injections (total of 4 administrations), in New Zealand White rabbits. The animals were sacrificed either 3 days or 3 weeks following the last dose. No signs of toxicity were observed, including no injection site reactions. ELISA studies revealed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-specific immunoglobulin G antibodies in the sera of C1-RBD-treated animals starting from day 13 post injection, that were further elevated. Histopathology evaluation and immunohistochemical staining revealed follicular hyperplasia, consisting of B-cell type, in the spleen and inguinal lymph nodes of the treated animals that were sustained throughout the recovery phase. No local or systemic toxicity was observed. In conclusion, the SARS-CoV-2 C1-RBD vaccine candidate demonstrated an excellent safety profile and a lasting immunogenic response against receptor-binding domain, thus supporting its further development for use in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-307
Number of pages14
JournalToxicologic Pathology
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Thermothelomyces heterothallica
  • C1
  • COVID-19
  • rabbits
  • RBD
  • safety
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • toxicity
  • vaccine

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