Poor immunogenicity of critical epitopes can hamper vaccine efficacy. To boost immune recognition of non- or low-immunogenic antigens, we developed a vaccine platform based on the conjugation of a target protein to a chimeric designer peptide (CDP) of bacterial origin. Here, we exploited this immune Boost (iBoost) technology to enhance the immune response against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein. Despite its fundamental role during viral infection, RBD is only moderately immunogenic. Immunization studies in mice showed that the conjugation of CDP to RBD induced superior immune responses compared to RBD alone. CDP-RBD elicited cross-reactive antibodies against the variants of concern Delta and Omicron. Furthermore, hamsters vaccinated with CDP-RBD developed potent neutralizing antibody responses and were fully protected from lung lesion formation upon challenge with SARS-CoV-2. In sum, we show that the iBoost conjugate vaccine technology provides a valuable tool for both quantitatively and qualitatively enhancing anti-viral immunity.
- Biological sciences
- Immune response