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RS2 breaks new ground: Indian scientists spearhead development of heat-tolerant adaptive Covid-19 vaccine

Professor Varadarajan's team strategically combined the S2 subunit and the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) of the virus's spike protein, creating a synthetic antigen with unparalleled stability and efficacy.

RS2 breaks new ground: Indian scientists spearhead development of heat-tolerant adaptive Covid-19 vaccine AJR
Author
First Published Jan 11, 2024, 12:21 PM IST

A groundbreaking achievement in the fight against Covid-19 emerges from the laboratories of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), where a team of scientists, under the leadership of Professor Raghavan Varadarajan, has unveiled a potential game-changer in the form of a revolutionary vaccine candidate.

The vaccine, named RS2, stands out for its unique design, engineered to combat current strains of SARS-CoV-2 and adapt swiftly to counter future variants. Professor Varadarajan's team strategically combined the S2 subunit and the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) of the virus's spike protein, creating a synthetic antigen with unparalleled stability and efficacy.

Unlike many existing vaccines targeting the S1 subunit, the RS2 vaccine focuses on the less mutation-prone S2 subunit, ensuring a more stable candidate for long-term immunity. The inclusion of the potent RBD, known for eliciting a robust immune response, further enhances its effectiveness.

Production of the hybrid RS2 protein, accomplished through mammalian cell lines, demonstrated unexpectedly high expression levels. This promising result suggests the ability to manufacture the RS2 antigen in large quantities, a critical factor for successful mass vaccination efforts.

Animal model testing indicated that the RS2 antigen triggered a potent immune response, providing superior protection compared to vaccines containing the entire spike protein. Notably, the RS2 antigen exhibits a remarkable feature—it can be stored at room temperature for up to a month without refrigeration, a characteristic that could significantly alleviate logistical challenges and reduce distribution costs.

The IISc team's extensive expertise in viral vaccine design, cultivated through years of research on vaccines for AIDS and influenza, played a pivotal role in developing the RS2-based Covid-19 vaccine candidate. Collaboration with Mynvax, a startup incubated at IISc, further fueled the success of this groundbreaking endeavor.

The RS2 vaccine candidate's adaptability to emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, coupled with its cost-effective production and distribution potential, positions it as a vital tool in the global effort to control and ultimately end the Covid-19 pandemic. This innovative vaccine could mark a significant milestone in the ongoing battle against the virus, offering hope for a healthier and more resilient future.

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