An epitope-optimized human H3N2 influenza vaccine induces broadly protective immunity in mice and ferrets

Brianna L. Bullard, Jennifer DeBeauchamp, Matthew J. Pekarek, Erika Petro-Turnquist, Peter Vogel, Richard J. Webby, Eric A. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is a crucial need for an improved H3N2 influenza virus vaccine due to low vaccine efficacy rates and increased morbidity and mortality associated with H3N2-dominated influenza seasons. Here, we utilize a computational design strategy to produce epitope-optimized, broadly cross-reactive H3 hemagglutinins in order to create a universal H3N2 influenza vaccine. The Epigraph immunogens are designed to maximize the viral population frequency of epitopes incorporated into the immunogen. We compared our Epigraph H3 vaccine to the traditional egg-based inactivated influenza vaccine from 2018–19, FluZone. Epigraph vaccination-induced stronger cross-reactive antibody responses than FluZone against 18 H3N2 viruses isolated from 1968 to 2019 in both mice and ferrets, with protective hemagglutination inhibition titers against 93–100% of the contemporary H3N2 strains compared to only 27% protection measured from FluZone. In addition, Epigraph vaccination-induced strong cross-reactive T-cell immunity which significantly contributes to protection against lethal influenza virus infection. Finally, Epigraph vaccination protected ferrets from influenza disease after challenge with two H3N2 viruses. The superior cross-reactive immunity induced by these Epigraph immunogens supports their development as a universal H3N2 influenza vaccine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65
Journalnpj Vaccines
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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