Immunogenicity of a DNA vaccine candidate for COVID-19

Trevor R.F. Smith, Ami Patel, Stephanie Ramos, Dustin Elwood, Xizhou Zhu, Jian Yan, Ebony N. Gary, Susanne N. Walker, Katherine Schultheis, Mansi Purwar, Ziyang Xu, Jewell Walters, Pratik Bhojnagarwala, Maria Yang, Neethu Chokkalingam, Patrick Pezzoli, Elizabeth Parzych, Emma L. Reuschel, Arthur Doan, Nicholas TursiMiguel Vasquez, Jihae Choi, Edgar Tello-Ruiz, Igor Maricic, Mamadou A. Bah, Yuanhan Wu, Dinah Amante, Daniel H. Park, Yaya Dia, Ali Raza Ali, Faraz I. Zaidi, Alison Generotti, Kevin Y. Kim, Timothy A. Herring, Sophia Reeder, Viviane M. Andrade, Karen Buttigieg, Gan Zhao, Jiun Ming Wu, Dan Li, Linlin Bao, Jiangning Liu, Wei Deng, Chuan Qin, Ami Shah Brown, Makan Khoshnejad, Nianshuang Wang, Jacqueline Chu, Daniel Wrapp, Jason S. McLellan, Kar Muthumani, Bin Wang, Miles W. Carroll, J. Joseph Kim, Jean Boyer, Daniel W. Kulp, Laurent M.P.F. Humeau, David B. Weiner, Kate E. Broderick*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The coronavirus family member, SARS-CoV-2 has been identified as the causal agent for the pandemic viral pneumonia disease, COVID-19. At this time, no vaccine is available to control further dissemination of the disease. We have previously engineered a synthetic DNA vaccine targeting the MERS coronavirus Spike (S) protein, the major surface antigen of coronaviruses, which is currently in clinical study. Here we build on this prior experience to generate a synthetic DNA-based vaccine candidate targeting SARS-CoV-2 S protein. The engineered construct, INO-4800, results in robust expression of the S protein in vitro. Following immunization of mice and guinea pigs with INO-4800 we measure antigen-specific T cell responses, functional antibodies which neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 infection and block Spike protein binding to the ACE2 receptor, and biodistribution of SARS-CoV-2 targeting antibodies to the lungs. This preliminary dataset identifies INO-4800 as a potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate, supporting further translational study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2601
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The studies described in this manuscript were funded by a grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The authors would like to additional thank Stacy Guzman at The Wistar Institute, and Olivia Bedoya, Gloria Mendez, Francisco Vega Vega and Jon Schantz at Inovio Pharmaceuticals for their assistance.
T.R.F.S., I.M., J.J.K., J.Y., D.E., S.R., D.A., J.W., A.D., M.V., M.Y., K.S., P.P., T.H., V.M.A., A.G., A.S.B., J.B., J.J.K., L.H.H., and K.E.B. are employees of Inovio Pharmaceuticals and as such receive salary and benefits, including ownership of stock and stock options, from the company. G.Z. and J.M. are employees of Advaccine and as such receive salary and benefits from the company. D.B.W. has received grant funding, participates in industry collaborations, has received speaking honoraria, and has received fees for consulting, including serving on scientific review committees and board services. Remuneration received by D.B.W. includes direct payments or stock or stock options, and in the interest of disclosure he notes potential conflicts associated with this work with Inovio and
possibly others. In addition, he has a patent DNA vaccine delivery pending to Inovio. All other authors report there are no competing interests

Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2020.

Citation: Smith, T.R.F., Patel, A., Ramos, S. et al. Immunogenicity of a DNA vaccine candidate for COVID-19. Nat Commun 11, 2601 (2020).



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