Polymer formulated self-amplifying RNA vaccine is partially protective against influenza virus infection in ferrets.
McKay PF., Zhou J., Frise R., Blakney AK., Bouton CR., Wang Z., Hu K., Samnuan K., Brown JC., Kugathasan R., Yeow J., Stevens MM., Barclay WS., Tregoning JS., Shattock RJ.
COVID-19 has demonstrated the power of RNA vaccines as part of a pandemic response toolkit. Another virus with pandemic potential is influenza. Further development of RNA vaccines in advance of a future influenza pandemic will save time and lives. As RNA vaccines require formulation to enter cells and induce antigen expression, the aim of this study was to investigate the impact of a recently developed bioreducible cationic polymer, pABOL for the delivery of a self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccine for seasonal influenza virus in mice and ferrets. Mice and ferrets were immunized with pABOL formulated saRNA vaccines expressing either haemagglutinin (HA) from H1N1 or H3N2 influenza virus in a prime boost regime. Antibody responses, both binding and functional were measured in serum after immunization. Animals were then challenged with a matched influenza virus either directly by intranasal inoculation or in a contact transmission model. While highly immunogenic in mice, pABOL-formulated saRNA led to variable responses in ferrets. Animals that responded to the vaccine with higher levels of influenza virus-specific neutralizing antibodies were more protected against influenza virus infection. pABOL-formulated saRNA is immunogenic in ferrets, but further optimization of RNA vaccine formulation and constructs is required to increase the quality and quantity of the antibody response to the vaccine.