In a four and a half minute presentation during a White House briefing on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease and White House senior advisor on the pandemic, singled out a recent Duke Human Vaccine Institute study that may hold the promise of becoming a universal vaccine against all forms of coronavirus that move from animals to humans, now and in the future.
“This is something that has been discussed now for some time,” Fauci said. ”What people are asking is ‘Can we actually conceptually and in reality, get a pan-Coronavirus vaccine?’ “
This would be one vaccine that would work against all forms of SARS-CoV-1, CoV-2, variants and future versions of the virus.
“There have been a number of forays into that using different types of vaccine platforms,” Fauci said. “But there was a recent paper published that I want to spend just a minute on because it really is potentially exciting, and it is an important proof-of-concept.”
“The paper appeared just a couple of days ago in the journal Nature,” Fauci said. “What the investigators at Duke University found out was that a specific highly-conserved site on the receptor binding domain of the spike protein makes multiple human and bat coronaviruses highly vulnerable to cross-neutralizing antibodies.”
By isolating antibodies from people who had previously been infected with SARS-CoV-1, the Duke team zeroed in on a genetic sequence that all forms of the virus seem to have in common for binding to human cells. An antibody that addresses that particular sequence seems to have broad protectiveness.
“They designed a nanoparticle vaccine, which actually displayed 24 copies of this receptor-binding domain and added an adjuvant to boost the immune response,” Fauci said. “And so in monkeys, the nanoparticle vaccine completely blocked SARS-CoV-2 infection and elicited higher neutralizing antibody activity than seen with current vaccines or with natural infection.”
“The vaccine elicited cross-neutralizing antibodies against bat coronaviruses, human SARS CoV-1, SARS CoV-2, and variants of SARS CoV-2 that we are dealing with, such as B.1.1.7, P.1, and B.1.351.”
Fauci said the finding is still preliminary in that the vaccine has only been used in non-human primates, “nonetheless, this is an extremely important proof of concept that we will be aggressively pursuing as we get into the development of human trials.”