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  1. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 sparked intensive research into the development of effective vaccines, 50 of which have been approved thus far, including the novel mRNA-based vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. Although limiting the severity of the disease, the mRNA-based vaccines presented drawbacks, such as the cold chain requirement. Moreover, antibody levels generated by these vaccines decline significantly after 6 months. These vaccines deliver mRNA encoding the full-length spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2, but must be updated as new strains and variants of concern emerge, creating a demand for adjusted formulations and booster campaigns. To overcome these challenges, we have developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates based on the highly conserved SARS CoV-2, 809-826 B-cell peptide epitope (denoted 826) conjugated to cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) nanoparticles and bacteriophage Qβ virus-like particles, both platforms have exceptional thermal stability and facilitate epitope delivery with inbuilt adjuvant activity. We evaluated two administration methods: subcutaneous injection and an implantable polymeric scaffold. Mice received a prime–boost regimen of 100 μg per dose (2 weeks apart) or a single dose of 200 μg administered as a liquid formulation, or a polymer implant. Antibody titers were evaluated longitudinally over 50 weeks. The vaccine candidates generally elicited an early Th2-biased immune response, which stimulates the production of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies, followed by a switch to a Th1-biased response for most formulations. Exceptionally, vaccine candidate 826-CPMV (administered as prime-boost, soluble injection) elicited a balanced Th1/Th2 immune response, which is necessary to prevent pulmonary immunopathology associated with Th2 bias extremes. While the Qβ-based vaccine elicited overall higher antibody titers, the CPMV-induced antibodies had higher avidity. Regardless of the administration route and formulation, our vaccine candidates maintained high antibody titers for more than 50 weeks, confirming a potent and durable immune response against SARS-CoV-2 even after a single dose. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 20, 2024
  2. Biologics — medications derived from a biological source — are increasingly used as pharmaceuticals, for example, as vaccines. Biologics are usually produced in bacterial, mammalian or insect cells. Alternatively, plant molecular farming, that is, the manufacture of biologics in plant cells, transgenic plants and algae, offers a cheaper and easily adaptable strategy for the production of biologics, in particular, in low- resource settings. In this Review, we discuss current vaccination challenges, such as cold chain requirements, and highlight how plant molecular farming in combination with advanced materials can be applied to address these challenges. The production of plant viruses and virus- based nanotechnologies in plants enables low- cost and regional fabrication of thermostable vaccines. We also highlight key new vaccine delivery technologies, including microneedle patches and material platforms for intranasal and oral delivery. Finally, we provide an outlook of future possibilities for plant molecular farming of next- generation vaccines and biologics. 
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  4. Abstract

    Patients with metastatic triple‐negative breast cancer (TNBC) have a poor prognosis, so new therapies or drug combinations that achieve more effective and durable responses are urgently needed. Here, a combination therapy using cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) and low doses of cyclophosphamide (CPA) is developed with remarkable synergistic efficacy against 4T1 mouse tumors in vivo. The combination therapy not only attenuates the growth of primary tumor and increases survival, but also suppresses distant tumor growth and reduces lung metastasis. Mechanistic analysis indicates that the combination of CPMV and CPA increases the secretion of several cytokines, activates antigen‐presenting cells, increases the abundance of tumor infiltrating T cells, and systematically reverses the immunosuppression. These results show that the combination of CPMV in situ vaccination with chemotherapy may become a potent new strategy for the treatment of TNBC.

     
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