Magnus Rueping and his team are leveraging naturally occurring bacterial gas vesicles, first discovered in the high-salinity waters of the Red Sea and the Sabkha salt marshes, to develop a novel vaccination approach in collaboration with Tiba Biotech. These robust protein carriers can be engineered to display immunogenic fragments derived from the coronavirus to further boost recognition by the adaptive immune system.
Most COVID-19 vaccines in development today focus on the surface spike protein, the antigen that gives coronavirus its “crown” name. However, there is concern that these vaccines have limited duration of protection, particularly if the SARS-CoV-2 virus persists over several seasons or mutates over time.
Working in collaboration with Tiba Biotech, a Boston-based venture founded in 2017, Rueping and his team are developing a heterologous prime/boost vaccination regimen using complimentary nanoparticle delivery technologies developed at KAUST and at MIT. Tiba’s fully synthetic mRNA vaccines target multiple coronavirus antigens, in addition to the spike protein.
After establishing an initial protective immune response with Tiba’s mRNA vaccines as a prime dose, the KAUST all-protein booster vaccines are expected to enhance antibody production and longer-lasting immunity. The components of the vaccination protocol can be rapidly produced under halal-certified manufacturing conditions.