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A proof of concept for neutralizing antibody-guided vaccine design against SARS-CoV-2

By Li Zhang, Lei Cao, Xing-Su Gao, Bin-Yang Zheng, Yong-Qiang Deng, Jing-Xin Li, Rui Feng, Qian Bian, Xi-Ling Guo, Nan Wang, Hong-Ying Qiu, Lei Wang, Zhen Cui, Qing Ye, Geng Chen, Kui-Kui Lu, Yin Chen, Yu-Tao Chen, Hong-Xing Pan, Bao-Li Zhu, Cheng-Feng Qin, Xiangxi Wang, Feng-Cai Zhu

Posted 23 Sep 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.23.309294

Mutations and transient conformational movements of receptor binding domain (RBD) that make neutralizing epitopes momentarily unavailable, present immune escape routes to SARS-CoV-2. To mitigate viral escape, we developed a cocktail of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) targeting epitopes located on different domains of spike (S) protein. Screening of a library of monoclonal antibodies generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of COVID-19 convalescent patients yielded potent NAbs, targeting N-terminal domain (NTD) and RBD domain of S, effective at nM concentrations. Remarkably, combination of RBD-targeting NAbs and NTD-binding NAb, FC05, dramatically enhanced the neutralization potency in cell-based assays and animal model. Results of competitive SPR assays and cryo-EM structures of Fabs bound to S unveil determinants of immunogenicity. Combinations of immunogens, identified in NTD and RBD of S, when immunized in rabbits elicited potent protective immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. These results provide a proof-of-concept for neutralization-based immunogen design targeting SARS-CoV-2 NTD and RBD. One sentence summary Immunogens identified in the NTD and RBD of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein using a cocktail of non-competing NAbs when injected in rabbits elicited a potent protective immune response against SARS-CoV-2. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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