A proof of concept for structure-based vaccine design targeting RSV in humans

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Science  02 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6452, pp. 505-509
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav9033

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Building a better RSV vaccine

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes severe respiratory disease, especially in infants and the elderly. However, attempts to produce effective human vaccines have largely been unsuccessful. Structure-based design has been used to generate an RSV fusion glycoprotein stabilized in its prefusion conformation (DS-Cav1). This immunogen is highly effective in mice and macaques. Crank et al. now report the results of a phase I vaccine clinical trial using the stabilized prefusion DS-Cav1 molecule. Four weeks after immunization, these vaccines elicited substantially more high-quality antibody titers than those typically generated using earlier RSV immunogens. The findings provide a proof of concept for how structural biology can contribute to precision vaccine design.

Science, this issue p. 505


Technologies that define the atomic-level structure of neutralization-sensitive epitopes on viral surface proteins are transforming vaccinology and guiding new vaccine development approaches. Previously, iterative rounds of protein engineering were performed to preserve the prefusion conformation of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) fusion (F) glycoprotein, resulting in a stabilized subunit vaccine candidate (DS-Cav1), which showed promising results in mice and macaques. Here, phase I human immunogenicity data reveal a more than 10-fold boost in neutralizing activity in serum from antibodies targeting prefusion-specific surfaces of RSV F. These findings represent a clinical proof of concept for structure-based vaccine design, suggest that development of a successful RSV vaccine will be feasible, and portend an era of precision vaccinology.

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