May 29, 2024
COVID-19 Vaccine

Indian Scientists Develop Heat-Tolerant COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Effective Against Current and Future Variants

Indian researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have successfully developed a thermostable vaccine candidate that provides broad protection against different strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. Led by Professor Raghavan Varadarajan from the Molecular Biophysics Unit (MBU) at IISc, the team designed a synthetic antigen that can be easily manufactured as a potential vaccine.

The study, published in npj Vaccines, demonstrates the efficacy of the vaccine candidate against all current strains of SARS-CoV-2 and its potential to adapt quickly to future variants. Although existing vaccines have proven effective against various strains, the rapid mutation of the virus has led to decreased efficacy. Therefore, the development of a heat-tolerant vaccine that provides broad protection is of paramount importance.

The researchers focused on analyzing proteins found in the virus and selected two specific parts of the spike protein, which are less prone to mutation than other components. These parts are the S2 subunit and the receptor binding domain (RBD). The S2 subunit is highly conserved, while the RBD can elicit a strong immune response. To create the vaccine candidate, the team combined these parts to form a hybrid protein called RS2.

In testing the hybrid protein, the researchers observed a high level of expression, indicating its potential for large-scale production. Furthermore, the protein elicited a robust immune response and provided better protection compared to vaccines containing the whole spike protein when tested in mice and hamster models.

One notable advantage of the RS2 antigen is its thermostability. It can be stored at room temperature for a month without the need for cold storage, making distribution and storage more cost-effective. This sets it apart from many existing vaccines that require cold storage facilities.

Professor Varadarajan and his team have been working on viral vaccine development for two decades, including vaccines against other diseases such as AIDS and influenza. Leveraging their expertise, they collaborated with the startup Mynvax, formerly incubated at IISc, to design the RS2-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The researchers highlight that the vaccine candidate can be easily modified to incorporate the receptor binding domain (RBD) of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2, ensuring its effectiveness against future strains. With its high expression levels and stability at room temperature, the RS2-based vaccine candidate has the potential to significantly reduce production and distribution costs, making it a promising tool in the global fight against COVID-19.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it