A Trojan horse for lung delivery of coronavirus therapies

One of the leading vaccine strategies to prevent COVID-19 has been the use of non-replicating adenoviruses as a delivery vehicle for production of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines directly in human tissues. Yet, adenoviruses can be used for vaccines and for therapeutics as well as to protect patients with a weak immune system.

  • Background

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    Our research group has core expertise in engineering proteins and has developed specialised technologies for adenoviral gene therapy for various therapeutic applications. This includes the ability to target infection of therapeutic adenoviruses to cell types of choice, such as lung cells or white blood cells, and the ability to coat the adenovirus in a “shield” that prevents it from being cleared when administered. These targeted, stealth viruses can then be used as Trojan horses for the production of therapeutics or vaccines in tissues where they are needed.

  • Research aims

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    Aim 1. We will retarget our adenoviral vector to specifically deliver genetic instructions for the production of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as well as therapeutics to specialised lung cells.

    Aim 2. We will encode instructions inside our adenoviral Trojan horse for the production of vaccines and/or anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics in the lung.

    Aim 3. We will develop the use of an intranasal, aerosol-based route of administration for administering the therapy to patients.

  • Expected results and envisaged products

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    We anticipate that our technologies of specific adenoviral targeting and shielding can be used to enhance delivery of adenovirus-based vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection currently in clinical trials. Targeting delivery of vaccines to specialised lung cells could enhance lung immune responses and provide better local protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection than standard injection of the vaccine into the muscle. We also plan to use our targeted virus technology to produce anti-coronavirus therapeutics directly in the lung to reduce or prevent viral spread and serve as a protective agent for those with a weak immune system. This may not only enhance efficacy but also reduce costs associated with production.

  • Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic

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    This project aims to develop a useful “toolkit” based on our core protein engineering expertise for optimal delivery of both SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and therapeutics to specialised cell populations in the lung, and has the potential to synergise with other leading strategies under development in Switzerland and around the world. Through collaboration and openness, we hope that this technology will accelerate the translation of promising vaccine and therapeutic combinations for pandemic diseases like COVID-19 as well as future emerging infectious diseases.

  • Original title

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    Adenovirus Platform, um therapeutische Wirkstoffe und Vakzine gegen SARS-CoV-2 direkt in der Lunge herzustellen