According to medical knowledge, SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID-19 is only one of the many viruses in the coronavirus family. In fact, many of these viruses are presents in animal populations and have the potential to transmit to the human population, in the way SARS-CoV-2 did.
Meanwhile, a team of researchers at the David Baltimore Professor of Biology and Bioengineering are engaged to develop vaccines for a host of related coronaviruses, with the objective to prevent pandemics in the future.
In fact, a team at Caltech have designed a protein-based subunit of 60 nanoparticles. The subunit is attached with up to eight different types of coronavirus. For experimental purpose, when the nanoparticle is injected into mice, it induces production of antibodies that react against different coronaviruses. This includes similar viruses that were not included on the nanoparticle.
The findings of the study is published in a paper in Science.
Platform for Nanoparticle vaccine developed by University of Oxford
Termed mosaic nanoparticle, the vaccine platform was earlier initially developed by collaborators at the University of Oxford. Structurally, the nanoparticle is in the shape of a cage made up of 60 identical proteins. And, each nanoparticle has a small protein tag that functions like a piece of Velcro.
To establish the efficacy of nanoparticles, the team used fragments of spike proteins of a few strain of coronaviruses, and engineered each coronavirus to have a protein tag that would attach to the ones on the cage. The mixing of viral pieces with the nanoparticle cage structure led to each virus tag to attach to a tag on the cage, making a nanoparticle that represents different strains of coronavirus on the surface.