In this project an integrated immunodiagnostic and vaccination platform for COVID-19 will be created. Based on the partners‘ novel microchip technology platform, a microarray is composed, on which the structural proteins of the SARS-CoV-2-virus in glycosylated and non-glycosylated form as well as certain relevant fragments of the proteins and a library of overlapping peptides from virus proteins are represented. This microarray – thereby covering the whole proteome of the virus – allows high resolution mapping of antigenic determinants eliciting an immune response following infection.
Furthermore, an ELISA assay capable of analyzing the interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with its receptor is established. In a clinical study, which has already received ethics approval and will start very soon, sera from convalescent COVID-19 patients will be tested for virus neutralization capacity and for epitope mapping. 200 patients with mild and 200 patients with severe course of the disease will be enrolled and compared to 200 healthy controls.
These data and pseudonymized clinical records using machine learning algorithms contributed by the Technical University of Munich (Prof. Jan Baumbach) will be correlated to derive antibody signatures. Both tests together are expected to deliver reliable results about the development of protective immunity.
These signatures and the identification of epitopes eliciting a virus neutralizing antibody response will enable the design of vaccine candidates using our proprietary PCFiT- (peptide-carrier-fusion) platform. These vaccines will be tested for immunogenicity in animal models, and the immune response will be analyzed with our microarray and the neutralization ELISA. They will subsequently be moved to clinical testing in the shortest possible timeframe.
Rainer Henning, Viravaxx’ CEO, comments: “In the current devastating COVID-19-pandemic, two major demands are on everybody’s mind. First, there is an urgent need for serological assays which effectively identify protective immunity, so that already immune people can get back to work and social interactions. This test should also allow measurement of herd immunity established in the broader population. Second, a potent vaccine is required, which reliably confers lasting immunity, so that vaccinated people will be protected from future waves of SARS-CoV-2-infections. We at Viravaxx work to answer these demands with our integrated platform. We are very keen to help people around the world to get their normal life back after the pandemic.”