In vaccine development, researchers are looking for a suitable part of the virus, usually a protein on its surface, which causes the human immune system to defend itself against infection before it is too late. In addition, they are working on accelerating the production of the vaccine and the regulatory steps.
Quality parameters of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines
It is necessary to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 as soon as possible. For this purpose, strategies for other virus vaccines will be investigated for their possible applicability to the current situation and quality concepts will be derived from them. Since the strategies of vaccine developers and manufacturers are very different, equally different approaches are required to ensure patient safety. Here, despite the necessary haste, no false compromises should be accepted. Efficient tests for identity, potency, impurities and the uniformity of the content are absolutely necessary. Stability tests are also of essential importance. Various chromatographic and (capillary) electrophoretic techniques are used to investigate these quality parameters, including CZE, CE-SDS, CIEF, 2D-MCE, ACE and WES.
In a subproject in this context the surface charge density of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is characterized in different chemical environments. Subsequently, binding studies at the ACE2 receptor will be performed, also considering different environmental molecules.
Proof of concept studies of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine with recombinant spike protein
The spike (S) protein is a promising vaccine antigen because the S protein of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV triggered the release of neutralizing antibodies that prevent infection by these viruses. However, subunit vaccines require an adjuvant that can promote both humoral and cellular immunity. Therefore, the project mainly aims to provide proof-of-concept for a CDA-adjuvanted S-based intranasal vaccine and to develop a process to produce the resulting antigen.
Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) vaccines
The vaccine virus Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) was originally developed as an improved vaccine against smallpox. Today, it is used in research to develop new vaccines against various infectious agents. The vaccine against the MERS coronavirus, which is currently undergoing clinical trials, was produced in this way and in cooperation with the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, such an MVA vaccine has now also been developed against SARS-CoV-2. For this purpose, the genetic information of the new coronavirus is introduced into the genome of the MVA viruses. Before the vaccine is used in humans, it is very important to investigate whether MVA-SARS-2 really protects against infection. To this end, animal models must be developed that simulate a COVID-19 infection in humans as closely as possible. Such COVID-19 animal models make it possible to investigate the disease-causing mechanisms in detail and to test the protective effect of MVA-SARS-2.
A special focus in vaccine development will also be on the establishment of effective vaccination strategies. Innovative vaccination strategies could also be better suited for use during a pandemic in the future.
Vaccine optimization and therapeutic approaches via modulation of the T-cell dependent immune response
Professor Dr. Guus F. Rimmelzwaan works at TiHo on various viruses including influenza viruses. His long-term goal is to develop a universal vaccine against these frequently changing viruses. He is also researching the T-cell defence. T cells are white blood cells and are part of the acquired immune response. He is now applying his knowledge to corona research to improve vaccine candidates and to support the T-cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Rimmelzwaan is an Alexander von Humboldt Professor. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards up to ten of these professorships per year - so far once in veterinary medicine. The professorship is the most highly endowed research award in Germany. The award winners will each receive five million EUR to spend five years conducting research in their field at German universities
The Race for Coronavirus Vaccines
In this project we relate insights from our work on "Experimentation, learning and preemption" (Hoppe-Wewetzer et al., 2020, CEPR DP 13483) to the current race for coronavirus vaccines. More precisely, we develop a framework for investigating the competition among five vaccine developers during the last phase of clinical trials carried out to assess the efficacy and safety a vaccine candidate. Methods of game theory and statistics are used. The project aims at deriving policy implications.
redCMC: Regulatory-technical shortcut for the production of a passive vaccine against SARS-CoV-2
In order to bring new vaccines into clinical application, a regulatory and procedural sequence of development phases must be followed. Using the example of a passive vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, an approach is being developed in close cooperation with the project partners and the Paul Ehrlich Institute with the aim of drastically reducing the time required for bioprocess development and initial GMP production of clinical trial goods - from more than 15 months to less than 6 months. This requires the partners to rethink their approach, both qualitatively and in terms of regulation. The central element is a shortened bioprocedural and regulatory set-up, which in case of valid feasibility will result in much faster access to a clinical application - without any compromises in patient safety. If this regulatory-technical shortcut proves successful, the principle could potentially be used for the development of new biopharmaceuticals, which could then be used for the first application in humans. In the event of future pandemics, new vaccines can then be expected more quickly.
Testing of the immune booster VPM 1002 to strengthen the immune response against SARS-CoV-2 pathogens
A vaccine against tuberculosis could help to achieve a milestone victory against the corona virus. VPM 1002 is the name of the preparation produced at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. It is intended to strengthen the immune system in its fight against the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen. "VPM 1002 is the genetically improved variant of a vaccine that is decades old and is used in many countries to combat the tuberculosis pathogen," says Professor Dr. Christoph Schindler from the Hannover Medical School (MHH), head of the CRC Core Facility at the Clinical Research Center Hannover. Because the vaccine apparently not only helps against the Tuberculosis bacterium but also improves the immune response in general, it could also strengthen the defense against the corona virus. VPM 1002 is now to be tested in a study on 1000 participants who come into contact with the corona virus in their jobs - doctors and nursing as well as rescue and emergency service personnel.