Development of a sars-cov-2 vaccine candidate using plant-based manufacturing and a tobacco mosaic virus-like nano-particle

Joshua M. Royal, Carrie A. Simpson, Alison A. McCormick, Amanda Phillips, Steve Hume, Josh Morton, John Shepherd, Youngjun Oh, Kelsi Swope, Jennifer L. Debeauchamp, Richard J. Webby, Robert W. Cross, Viktoriya Borisevich, Thomas W. Geisbert, Jennifer K. Demarco, Barry Bratcher, Hugh Haydon, Gregory P. Pogue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stable, effective, easy-to-manufacture vaccines are critical to stopping the COVID-19 pandemic resulting from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. We constructed a vaccine candidate CoV-RBD121-NP, which is comprised of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike glycoprotein (S) fused to a human IgG1 Fc domain (CoV-RBD121) and conjugated to a modified tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) nanoparticle. In vitro, CoV-RBD121 bound to the host virus receptor ACE2 and to the monoclonal antibody CR3022, a neutralizing antibody that blocks S binding to ACE2. The CoV-RBD121-NP vaccine candidate retained key SARS-CoV-2 spike protein epitopes, had consistent manufacturing release properties of safety, identity, and strength, and displayed stable potency when stored for 12 months at 2–8 C or 22–28 C. Immunogenicity studies revealed strong antibody responses in C57BL/6 mice with non-adjuvanted or adjuvanted (7909 CpG) formulations. The non-adjuvanted vaccine induced a balanced Th1/Th2 response and antibodies that recognized both the S1 domain and full S protein from SARS2-CoV-2, whereas the adjuvanted vaccine induced a Th1-biased response. Both adjuvanted and non-adjuvanted vaccines induced virus neutralizing titers as measured by three different assays. Collectively, these data showed the production of a stable candidate vaccine for COVID-19 through the association of the SARS-CoV-2 RBD with the TMV-like nanoparticle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1347
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Nanoparticle
  • Plant-based manufacturing
  • Receptor-binding domain
  • SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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