Optimised Non-Coding Regions of mRNA SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine CV2CoV Improves Homologous and Heterologous Neutralising Antibody Responses
More than two years after the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, 33 COVID-19 vaccines, based on different platforms, have been approved in 197 countries. Novel variants that are less efficiently neutralised by antibodies raised against ancestral SARS-CoV-2 are circulating, highlighting the need to adapt vaccination strategies. Here, we compare the immunogenicity of a first-generation mRNA vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, with a second-generation mRNA vaccine candidate, CV2CoV, in rats. Higher levels of spike (S) protein expression were observed in cell culture with the CV2CoV mRNA than with the CVnCoV mRNA. Vaccination with CV2CoV also induced higher titres of virus neutralising antibodies with accelerated kinetics in rats compared with CVnCoV. Significant cross-neutralisation of the SARS-CoV-2 variants, Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), and the ‘mink’ variant (B1.1.298) that were circulating at the time in early 2021 were also demonstrated. In addition, CV2CoV induced higher levels of antibodies at lower doses than CVnCoV, suggesting that dose-sparing could be possible with the next-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which could improve worldwide vaccine supply.