Developing a COVID-19 vaccine using VLP technology

At AdaptVac

In mid-March, soon after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, biotech company AdaptVac and researchers at University of Copenhagen, received an EU grant of EUR 2.7 million for their new COVID-19 vaccine development program. This was rapidly followed by a EUR 3 million Semper Ardens grant from the Carlsberg Foundation, given to Professor Ali Salanti at the University of Copenhagen, co-founder of AdaptVac.

Though new in the field of COVID-19 vaccine development, Dr. Salanti and his team have a solid virus-like particle (VLP) based vaccine platform.
A female scientist is inserting a Via2-Cassette™ into a NucleoCounter® NC-202™ next to her colleague.
Illustrations of split-protein tags bound to VLPs and microscopy images of them.

Image: courtesy of AdaptVac

Multiple peptide sequences (i.e. antigens called ‘split-protein tags’) are bound to the VLPs to increase the density of antigen-display necessary for initiation of an immune response. When used in a vaccine, VLPs enhance the chances that a COVID-19 antigen and VLP-complex will raise a response and protect the recipient from the actual COVID-19 virus, once exposed.

Why develop a COVID-19 vaccine?

When asked why he took on the challenge of developing a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Ali Salanti said: “We have for a long time been painfully aware of the global repeated failures in developing new effective vaccines. To identify reasons for this and to develop novel superior vaccine platforms we established a team led by Associate Professors Morten Nielsen and Adam Sander and myself.

In this work we succeeded in developing a method and a platform where we can deliver virtually any vaccine target masked as a virus like particle, and the result is that the human immune system recognizes the vaccine as though it was a dangerous virus and mounts a strong and long lasting immune response.

Having strong data with this technology as a malaria as well as cancer vaccine platform, it was obvious that this technology could be a key solution to an effective and long lasting COVID-19 vaccine.”

Watch Dr. Salanti talk about the COVID-19 vaccination program in Carlsberg Foundation’s video (in Danish with English subtitles)

Who is in the project team?

CEO of AdaptVac, Dr. Wian de Jongh, is an affiliated professor at the Technical University of Denmark and co-founder and CSO at ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies. Dr. de Jongh did his early work on insect cell expression systems in the private sector.

Asked what the benefits of their VLP technology in COVID-19 vaccine development are, Dr. de Jongh stated, “One of the key advantages is the fast and strong immune response our VLP platform generates. This could potentially allow a single vaccination to be protective, greatly simplifying scale-up and distribution of the final vaccine to the public.”

Dr. de Jongh is very excited about the prospect of the world community finding several vaccines for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This boost in vaccine research and development will better prepare us for future pandemics. The knowledge gained will also spill into vaccine generation for already known diseases, such as malaria and cancers; two areas that AdaptVac already focus on. Find out more.

Dr. Salanti is a professor of medical parasitology at the University of Copenhagen. He works on finding vaccines against malaria parasite infections, in particular, a vaccine to protect pregnant women from malaria. He has founded several biotech companies based on his malaria vaccine research, focusing on vaccine development for several diseases, including malaria and COVID-19, and on cancer diagnostics and treatments.

COVID-19 support

“At ChemoMetec, we support researchers who develop vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic. We provided a NucleoCounter® NC-202™ automated cell counter and Via2-Cassette™ consumables to AdaptVac so they no longer have to do time-consuming manual cell counting. This releases critical staff resources to focus on vaccine development, so AdaptVac can reach their goals faster. We are very proud to support one of Europe’s top teams in the fight against COVID-19!” – Steen Søndergaard, CEO of ChemoMetec.

We also provide online information, expert support, and instrument demos on how to use our instruments in your lab. Check out our webinar series on challenges and considerations in cell counting and learn more about how we can support you here.