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May 29th, 2020
Particulate multivalent presentation of the receptor binding domain induces protective immune responses against MERS-CoV
Nisreen M. A. Okba, Ivy Widjaja, Brenda van Dieren, Andrea Aebischer, Geert van Amerongen, Leon de Waal, Koert J. Stittelaar, Debby Schipper, Byron Martina,Judith M. A. van den Brand, Martin Beer, Berend-Jan Bosch & Bart L. Haagmans

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a WHO priority pathogen for which vaccines are urgently needed. Using an immune-focusing approach, we created self-assembling particles multivalently displaying critical regions of the MERS-CoV spike protein ─fusion peptide, heptad repeat 2, and receptor binding domain (RBD) ─ and tested their immunogenicity and protective capacity in rabbits. Using a “plug-and-display” SpyTag/SpyCatcher system, we coupled RBD to lumazine synthase (LS) particles producing multimeric RBD-presenting particles (RBD-LS). RBD-LS vaccination induced antibody responses of high magnitude and quality (avidity, MERS-CoV neutralizing capacity, and mucosal immunity) with cross-clade neutralization. The antibody responses were associated with blocking viral replication and upper and lower respiratory tract protection against MERS-CoV infection in rabbits. This arrayed multivalent presentation of the viral RBD using the antigen-SpyTag/LS-SpyCatcher is a promising MERS-CoV vaccine candidate and this platform may be applied for the rapid development of vaccines against other emerging viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

Emerging Microbes & Infections Volume 9, 2020 - Issue 1, Pages 1080-1091
Nov 1st, 2018
HIV-1 vaccine design through minimizing envelope metastability
Linling He, Sonu Kumar, Joel D. Allen, Deli Huang, Xiaohe Lin, Colin J. Mann, Karen L. Saye-Francisco, Jeffrey Copps, Anita Sarkar, Gabrielle S. Blizard, Gabriel Ozorowski, Devin Sok, Max Crispin, Andrew B. Ward et al.

Overcoming envelope metastability is crucial to trimer-based HIV-1 vaccine design. Here, we present a coherent vaccine strategy by minimizing metastability. For 10 strains across five clades, we demonstrate that the gp41 ectodomain (gp41ECTO) is the main source of envelope metastability by replacing wild-type gp41ECTO with BG505 gp41ECTO of the uncleaved prefusion-optimized (UFO) design. These gp41ECTO-swapped trimers can be produced in CHO cells with high yield and high purity. The crystal structure of a gp41ECTO-swapped trimer elucidates how a neutralization-resistant tier 3 virus evades antibody recognition of the V2 apex. UFO trimers of transmitted/founder viruses and UFO trimers containing a consensus-based ancestral gp41ECTO suggest an evolutionary root of metastability. The gp41ECTO-stabilized trimers can be readily displayed on 24- and 60-meric nanoparticles, with incorporation of additional T cell help illustrated for a hyperstable 60-mer, I3-01. In mice and rabbits, these gp140 nanoparticles induced tier 2 neutralizing antibody responses more effectively than soluble trimers.

Sci Adv. 2018 Nov; 4(11): eaau6769. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau6769
Sciences Advances
Apr 21st, 2020
Multimeric single-domain antibody complexes protect against bunyavirus infections
Paul J Wichgers Schreur Is a corresponding author, Sandra van de Water, Michiel Harmsen, Erick Bermúdez-Méndez, Dubravka Drabek, Frank Grosveld, Kerstin Wernike, Martin Beer, Andrea Aebischer, Olalekan Daramola et al.

The World Health Organization has included three bunyaviruses posing an increasing threat to human health on the Blueprint list of viruses likely to cause major epidemics and for which no, or insufficient countermeasures exist. Here, we describe a broadly applicable strategy, based on llama-derived single-domain antibodies (VHHs), for the development of bunyavirus biotherapeutics. The method was validated using the zoonotic Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) and Schmallenberg virus (SBV), an emerging pathogen of ruminants, as model pathogens. VHH building blocks were assembled into highly potent neutralizing complexes using bacterial superglue technology. The multimeric complexes were shown to reduce and prevent virus-induced morbidity and mortality in mice upon prophylactic administration. Bispecific molecules engineered to present two different VHHs fused to an Fc domain were further shown to be effective upon therapeutic administration. The presented VHH-based technology holds great promise for the development of bunyavirus antiviral therapies.

eLife 2020;9:e52716 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.52716
Apr 28th, 2020
Synthetic antibodies built with bacterial superglue could help fight emerging viruses
Paul J Wichgers Schreur et al.

Antibody building blocks stuck together with bacterial superglue can protect against bunyaviruses, and herald a new approach to developing antibodies to fight emerging viruses.

April 28th 2020
Apr 28th, 2020
THE CORONAVIRUS CZAR: The COVID-19 pandemic has made German virologist Christian Drosten an unlikely cult figure
Kai Kupferschmidt
Science People & Events Coronavirus
Apr 28th, 2020
THE CORONAVIRUS CZAR: The COVID-19 pandemic has made German virologist Christian Drosten an unlikely cult figure
Kai Kupferschmidt
Science People & Events Coronavirus
May 6th, 2019
Species -specific co -localization of MERS -CoV attachment and entry receptor
W. Widagdo, Nisreen M.A. Okba, Wentao Li, Alwin de Jong, Rik Y.L. de Swart, Lineke Begeman, Judith M.A. van den Brand, Berend-Jan Bosch, Bart L. Haagmans

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) uses the S1B domain of its spike protein to bind to dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), its functional receptor, and its S1A domain to bind to sialic acids. The tissue localization of DPP4 in humans, bats, camelids, pigs, and rabbits generally correlates with MERS-CoV tropism, highlighting the role of DPP4 in virus pathogenesis and transmission. However, MERS-CoV S1A does not indiscriminately bind to all α2,3-sialic acids, and the species-specific binding and tissue distribution of these sialic acids in different MERS-CoV-susceptible species have not been investigated. We established a novel method to detect these sialic acids on tissue sections of various organs of different susceptible species by using nanoparticles displaying multivalent MERS-CoV S1A. We found that the nanoparticles specifically bound to the nasal epithelial cells of dromedary camels, type II pneumocytes in human lungs, and the intestinal epithelial cells of common pipistrelle bats. Desialylation by neuraminidase abolished nanoparticle binding and significantly reduced MERS-CoV infection in primary susceptible cells. In contrast, S1A nanoparticles did not bind to the intestinal epithelium of serotine bats and frugivorous bat species, nor did they bind to the nasal epithelium of pigs and rabbits. Both pigs and rabbits have been shown to shed less infectious virus than dromedary camels and do not transmit the virus via either contact or airborne routes. Our results depict species-specific colocalization of MERS-CoV entry and attachment receptors, which may be relevant in the transmission and pathogenesis of MERS-CoV.

IMPORTANCE MERS-CoV uses the S1B domain of its spike protein to attach to its host receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). The tissue localization of DPP4 has been mapped in different susceptible species. On the other hand, the S1A domain, the N-terminal domain of this spike protein, preferentially binds to several glycotopes of α2,3-sialic acids, the attachment factor of MERS-CoV. Here we show, using a novel method, that the S1A domain specifically binds to the nasal epithelium of dromedary camels, alveolar epithelium of humans, and intestinal epithelium of common pipistrelle bats. In contrast, it does not bind to the nasal epithelium of pigs or rabbits, nor does it bind to the intestinal epithelium of serotine bats and frugivorous bat species. This finding supports the importance of the S1A domain in MERS-CoV infection and tropism, suggests its role in transmission, and highlights its potential use as a component of novel vaccine candidates.

Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.

Journal of Virology 93 (16)
May 3rd, 2019
Changing Priorities in vaccinology: Antibiotic Resistance Moving to the Top
Aldo Tagliabue and Rino Rappuoli

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is currently the most alarming issue for human health. AMR already causes 700,000 deaths/year. It is estimated that 10 million deaths due to AMR will occur every year after 2050. This equals the number of people dying of cancer every year in present times. International institutions such as G20, World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), UN General Assembly, European Union, and the UK and USA governments are calling for new antibiotics. To underline this emergency, a list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” has been published by WHO. It contains 12 families of bacteria that represent the greatest danger for human health. Resistance to multiple antibiotics is particularly relevant for the Gram-negative bacteria present in the list. The ability of these bacteria to develop mechanisms to resist treatment could be transmitted with genetic material, allowing other bacteria to become drug resistant. Although the search for new antimicrobial drugs remains a top priority, the pipeline for new antibiotics is not promising, and alternative solutions are needed. A possible answer to AMR is vaccination. In fact, while antibiotic resistance emerges rapidly, vaccines can lead to a much longer lasting control of infections. New technologies, such as the high-throughput cloning of human B cells from convalescent or vaccinated people, allow for finding new protective antigens (Ags) that could not be identified with conventional technologies. Antibodies produced by convalescent B cell clones can be screened for their ability to bind, block, and kill bacteria, using novel high-throughput microscopy platforms that rapidly capture digital images, or by conventional technologies such as bactericidal, opsono-phagocytosis and FACS assays. Selected antibodies expressed by recombinant DNA techniques can be used for passive immunization in animal models and tested for protection. Antibodies providing the best protection can be employed to identify new Ags and then used for generating highly specific recombinant Fab fragments. Co-crystallization of Ags bound to Fab fragments will allow us to determine the structure and characteristics of new Ags. This structure-based Ag design will bring to a new generation of vaccines able to target previously elusive infections, thereby offering an effective solution to the problem of AMR.

doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01068
Front. Immunol., 30 May 2018
Feb 22nd, 2019
On the predictability of infectious disease outbreaks
Samuel V. Scarpino & Giovanni Petri

Infectious disease outbreaks recapitulate biology: they emerge from the multi-level interaction of hosts, pathogens, and environment. Therefore, outbreak forecasting requires an integrative approach to modeling. While specific components of outbreaks are predictable, it remains unclear whether fundamental limits to outbreak prediction exist. Here, adopting permutation entropy as a model independent measure of predictability, we study the predictability of a diverse collection of outbreaks and identify a fundamental entropy barrier for disease time series forecasting. However, this barrier is often beyond the time scale of single outbreaks, implying prediction is likely to succeed. We show that forecast horizons vary by disease and that both shifting model structures and social network heterogeneity are likely mechanisms for differences in predictability. Our results highlight the importance of embracing dynamic modeling approaches, suggest challenges for performing model selection across long time series, and may relate more broadly to the predictability of complex adaptive systems.


Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 898 (2019)
May 3rd, 2019
Towards a solution to MERS: protective human monoclonal antibodies targeting different domains and functions of the MERS-coronavirus spike glycoprotein
Ivy Widjaja, Chunyan Wang, Rien van Haperen, Javier Gutiérrez-Álvarez, Brenda van Dieren, Nisreen M.A. Okba, V. Stalin Raj, Wentao Li, Raul Fernandez-Delgado, Frank Grosveld, Frank J. M. van Kuppeveld, Bart L. Haagmans, Luis Enjuanes, Dubravka Drabek ...

The Middle-East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a zoonotic virus that causes severe and often fatal respiratory disease in humans. Efforts to develop antibody-based therapies have focused on neutralizing antibodies that target the receptor binding domain of the viral spike protein thereby blocking receptor binding. Here, we developed a set of human monoclonal antibodies that target functionally distinct domains of the MERS-CoV spike protein. These antibodies belong to six distinct epitope groups and interfere with the three critical entry functions of the MERS-CoV spike protein: sialic acid binding, receptor binding and membrane fusion. Passive immunization with potently as well as with poorly neutralizing antibodies protected mice from lethal MERS-CoV challenge. Collectively, these antibodies offer new ways to gain humoral protection in humans against the emerging MERS-CoV by targeting different spike protein epitopes and functions.

DOI: 10.1080/22221751.2019.1597644
Emerging Microbes & Infections, 2019, 8:1, 516-530


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