Designing and Evaluating Universal Coronavirus Vaccines

Universal coronavirus vaccines must be developed to protect against multiple coronavirus types. We are taking two simultaneous vaccine approaches to elicit broader immune responses. Firstly, as we determine which areas of coronaviruses spike proteins are most cross-reactive, we design spike-based vaccine antigens to target those areas. Secondly, we engineer nanoparticles to display multiple vaccine antigens. Nanoparticles enhance immune responses, facilitate optimal spatial organization for B-cell engagement, and allow for the display of different antigens in one vaccine. Following in vitro antigenic characterization, we evaluate our vaccines in mouse models to assess immune responses. Beyond use as vaccines, we use our rationally designed antigens and nanoparticles as tools for dissecting coronavirus immune responses and isolating novel monoclonal antibodies. Together, this work fuels our understanding of coronavirus viral immunology in a cycle that continuously produces new and improved vaccine concepts.