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DNA vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques

OPEN Science (New York, N.Y.) | 22 May 2020

J Yu, LH Tostanoski, L Peter, NB Mercado, K McMahan, SH Mahrokhian, JP Nkolola, J Liu, Z Li, A Chandrashekar, DR Martinez, C Loos, C Atyeo, S Fischinger, JS Burke, MD Slein, Y Chen, A Zuiani, FJ N Lelis, M Travers, S Habibi, L Pessaint, A Van Ry, K Blade, R Brown, A Cook, B Finneyfrock, A Dodson, E Teow, J Velasco, R Zahn, F Wegmann, EA Bondzie, G Dagotto, MS Gebre, X He, C Jacob-Dolan, M Kirilova, N Kordana, Z Lin, LF Maxfield, F Nampanya, R Nityanandam, JD Ventura, H Wan, Y Cai, B Chen, AG Schmidt, DR Wesemann, RS Baric, G Alter, H Andersen, MG Lewis and DH Barouch
The global COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has made the development of a vaccine a top biomedical priority. In this study, we developed a series of DNA vaccine candidates expressing different forms of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein and evaluated them in 35 rhesus macaques. Vaccinated animals developed humoral and cellular immune responses, including neutralizing antibody titers comparable to those found in convalescent humans and macaques infected with SARS-CoV-2. Following vaccination, all animals were challenged with SARS-CoV-2, and the vaccine encoding the full-length S protein resulted in >3.1 and >3.7 log10 reductions in median viral loads in bronchoalveolar lavage and nasal mucosa, respectively, as compared with sham controls. Vaccine-elicited neutralizing antibody titers correlated with protective efficacy, suggesting an immune correlate of protection. These data demonstrate vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 in nonhuman primates.
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