Assessment of Immunogenicity and Efficacy of CV0501 mRNA-Based Omicron COVID-19 Vaccination in Small Animal Models
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron and its subvariants (BA.2, BA.4, BA.5) represented the most commonly circulating variants of concern (VOC) in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2022. Despite high vaccination rates with approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines encoding the ancestral spike (S) protein, these Omicron subvariants have collectively resulted in increased viral transmission and disease incidence. This necessitates the development and characterization of vaccines incorporating later emerging S proteins to enhance protection against VOC. In this context, bivalent vaccine formulations may induce broad protection against VOC and potential future SARS-CoV-2 variants. Here, we report preclinical data for a lipid nanoparticle (LNP)-formulated RNActive® N1-methylpseudouridine (N1mΨ) modified mRNA vaccine (CV0501) based on our second-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine CV2CoV, encoding the S protein of Omicron BA.1. The immunogenicity of CV0501, alone or in combination with a corresponding vaccine encoding the ancestral S protein (ancestral N1mΨ), was first measured in dose-response and booster immunization studies performed in Wistar rats. Both monovalent CV0501 and bivalent CV0501/ancestral N1mΨ immunization induced robust neutralizing antibody titers against the BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, in addition to other SARS-CoV-2 variants in a booster immunization study. The protective efficacy of monovalent CV0501 against live SARS-CoV-2 BA.2 infection was then assessed in hamsters. Monovalent CV0501 significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 BA.2 viral loads in the airways, demonstrating protection induced by CV0501 vaccination. CV0501 has now advanced into human Phase 1 clinical trials (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05477186).