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A COVID-19 peptide vaccine for the induction of SARS-CoV-2 T cell immunity
Nature  (IF49.962),  Pub Date : 2021-11-23, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04232-5
Jonas S. Heitmann, Tatjana Bilich, Claudia Tandler, Annika Nelde, Yacine Maringer, Maddalena Marconato, Julia Reusch, Simon Jäger, Monika Denk, Marion Richter, Leonard Anton, Lisa Marie Weber, Malte Roerden, Jens Bauer, Jonas Rieth, Marcel Wacker, Sebastian Hörber, Andreas Peter, Christoph Meisner, Imma Fischer, Markus W. Löffler, Julia Karbach, Elke Jäger, Reinhild Klein, Hans-Georg Rammensee, Helmut R. Salih, Juliane S. Walz

T cell immunity is central for the control of viral infections. CoVac-1 is a peptide-based vaccine candidate, composed of SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes derived from various viral proteins1,2, combined with the Toll-like receptor 1/2 agonist XS15 emulsified in Montanide ISA51 VG, aiming to induce profound SARS-CoV-2 T cell immunity to combat COVID-19. Here we conducted a phase I open-label trial, recruiting 36 participants aged 18–80 years, who received a single subcutaneous CoVac-1 vaccination. The primary end point was safety analysed until day 56. Immunogenicity in terms of CoVac-1-induced T cell response was analysed as the main secondary end point until day 28 and in the follow-up until month 3. No serious adverse events and no grade 4 adverse events were observed. Expected local granuloma formation was observed in all study participants, whereas systemic reactogenicity was absent or mild. SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses targeting multiple vaccine peptides were induced in all study participants, mediated by multifunctional T helper 1 CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. CoVac-1-induced IFNγ T cell responses persisted in the follow-up analyses and surpassed those detected after SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as after vaccination with approved vaccines. Furthermore, vaccine-induced T cell responses were unaffected by current SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Together, CoVac-1 showed a favourable safety profile and induced broad, potent and variant of concern-independent T cell responses, supporting the presently ongoing evaluation in a phase II trial for patients with B cell or antibody deficiency.