Freeze-dried liposomes may be used in potential COVID-19 vaccines.
Things that can be frozen dried: Astronaut food. Emergency rations. And, just maybe, some future COVID-19 vaccines.
Freeze-drying is a method for eliminating water from the product. First, you must freeze the item you wish to dehydrate. This causes any water to turn into ice. Sublimation is a method that eliminates ice from the item. This involves vaporizing frozen ice at a low pressure.
Scientists have announced that they have successfully frozen dried a liquid vaccine formula based on liposomes. This could be used in COVID-19 vaccines.
It is far from being possible to develop a vaccine that uses freeze-dried liposomes. If it’s developed successfully the dehydrated doses can be transported and stored at room temperature, removing the logistical issues that are associated with the most well-known available vaccines for the disease.
The research findings will be published in Science Advances on Dec. 1 with University at Buffalo biomedical engineering researchers Jonathan Lovell and Moustafa Mabrouk as the senior and first authors, respectively.
“At the time we began this project, the first COVID-19 vaccines were just getting launched and there was a lot of news about the need for ultra-cold storage, and that it was a major logistical hurdle. Particularly in low- and middle-income nations, it might not be practical to have that type of refrigeration infrastructure. Therefore, we began to look at the possibility of creating COVID-19 vaccine that is thermostable using a liposome-based vaccination platform we’ve worked on in the past,” says Lovell, PhD, SUNY Empire Innovation Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.
The latest study focuses on a liquid injection comprised consisting of water, specialized liposomes containing a synthetically produced spike protein from the COVID-19 viruses, and small amounts of sugar. This protects the formulation during freeze-drying.
The product freeze-dried looks like cotton candy, but in mint green.
“Upon dehydration, the formula was stable at elevated temperatures and we proved that it is able to endure room temperatures and even higher temperatures for at least one week,” says Mabrouk, who is a UB biomedical engineering PhD student. “After that, we reconstituted the formula by adding water. This resulted in strong antibodies in mice and protected them against the COVID-19 virus.
Co-authors also include Wei-Chiao Huang and Breandan Quinn at UB; Kevin Chiem and Luis Martinez-Sobrido at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in the U.S.; Edurne Rujas at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Canada and University of the Basque Country in Spain; Dushyant Jahagirdar and Joaquin Ortega at McGill University in Canada; Meera Surendran Nair, Ruth H. Nissly, Victoria S. Cavener, Nina R. Boyle, Ty A. Sornberger and Suresh V. Kuchipudi at Pennsylvania State University in the U.S.; and Jean-Philippe Julien at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute and University of Toronto in Canada.
The research was aided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health as well as the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under a Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant as well as the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar Program and the Ontario Early Researcher Awards program and the Canada Research Chairs program.
The specialized liposomes studied in the Science Advances study are being investigated for their potential use in vaccines against multiple diseases. The liposomes first came into existence in Lovell’s UB lab and licensed by the university to POP Biotechnologies (a startup company Lovell co-founded). (Huang is also an POP Biotechnologies employee.)
POP Biotechnologies’ liposome based vaccine delivery system is being tested in South Korea for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The EuCorVac-19 vaccine candidate is being developed by POP Biotechnologies in collaboration with EuBiologics which is an South Korean biotech company. EuCorVac-19 has some of the same ingredients as the Science Advances vaccine formula.
Lovell states that freeze drying of the EuCorVac-19 vaccine hasn’t been tested. “However I believe that the results of this new study suggest that, in theory EuCorVac-19’s formula might be amenable to this type of treatment, making it very thermostable, and this would be beneficial to any global deployment.”
Mabrouk, M.T., and. (2021) Lyophilized thermostable Spike, thermostable RBD or immunogenic liposomes induce protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in mice. Science Advances. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abj1476.
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