myNEO announced in May 2020 the identification of promising immunogenic covid-19 peptides by making smart use of its computational algorithms which resulted in pre-clinical testing of five covid-19 vaccine designs.
The vaccine works differently than most. It consists of a carefully chosen cocktail of peptides (pieces of protein), identified by myNEO, that are essential for the virus, to initiate a highly targeted immune response. This approach has several advantages over using a complete protein. By specifically choosing conserved fragments that are necessary for the virus to work, the vaccine has a better effect against both SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for Covid-19) and all other (future) forms of the same virus family with those same parts.
In addition, a second measure is taken against mutational drift as each vaccine design is directed against 20 peptides specific to the SARS-CoV-2 species, limiting the probability that the virus would modify all 20 epitopes at once. Furthermore, the vaccine not only targets the Spike-protein but also the E-, M-, and N proteins are included. These proteins are in fact important as well for the survival of the virus which potentially increases the likelihood of a highly effective vaccine.
In the last months, it became apparent that the original strains of SARS-CoV-2 have been divergently mutating into different sub-strains with different characteristics, and potentially different susceptibility to the developed vaccines. Upon deeper analysis, myNEO found that the mutations that are present in the novel UK, South-African, and Brasilian SARS-CoV-2 strains, have occurred mostly in regions that were considered to be low in degree of conservation, and that were thus deemed too variable to be included in the vaccine design in the first place. Read the report here.
Early preclinical work has confirmed that these conserved antigen constructs induce significant immune responses. Further preclinical work is ongoing and the goal is to start to test the vaccine on humans in late 2021.