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Replication-competent vesicular stomatitis virus vaccine vector protects against SARS-CoV-2-mediated pathogenesis

By James Brett Case, Paul W Rothlauf, Rita E. Chen, Natasha M. Kafai, Julie M Fox, Swathi Shrihari, Broc T. McCune, Ian B. Harvey, Brittany Smith, Shamus P Keeler, Louis-Marie Bloyet, Emma S Winkler, Michael J. Holtzman, Daved H Fremont, Sean P.J. Whelan, Michael S. Diamond

Posted 10 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.09.196386 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.07.018)

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused millions of human infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Accordingly, an effective vaccine is of critical importance in mitigating coronavirus induced disease 2019 (COVID-19) and curtailing the pandemic. We developed a replication-competent vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-based vaccine by introducing a modified form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike gene in place of the native glycoprotein gene (VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2). Immunization of mice with VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2 elicits high titers of antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection and target the receptor binding domain that engages human angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2). Upon challenge with a human isolate of SARS-CoV-2, mice expressing human ACE2 and immunized with VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2 show profoundly reduced viral infection and inflammation in the lung indicating protection against pneumonia. Finally, passive transfer of sera from VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2-immunized animals protects naive mice from SARS-CoV-2 challenge. These data support development of VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2 as an attenuated, replication-competent vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. ### Competing Interest Statement M.S.D. is a consultant for Inbios, Eli Lilly, Vir Biotechnology, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of Moderna. M.J.H. is a member of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board for AstroZeneca and founder of NuPeak Therapeutics. The Diamond laboratory has received funding under sponsored research agreements from Moderna, Vir Biotechnology, and Emergent BioSolutions. The Whelan laboratory has received funding under sponsored research agreements from Vir Biotechnology. S.P.J.W. and P.W.R. have filed a disclosure with Washington University for the recombinant VSV.

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