Efficient stabilization of therapeutic hepatitis B vaccine components by amino-acid formulation maintains its potential to break immune tolerance

Julia Sacherl, Anna D. Kosinska, Kristina Kemter, Martin Kächele, Sabine C. Laumen, Hélène A. Kerth, Edanur Ates Öz, Lisa S. Wolff, Jinpeng Su, Sandra Essbauer, Gerd Sutter, Martin Scholz, Katrin Singethan, Jens Altrichter, Ulrike Protzer

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Background & Aims: Induction of potent, HBV-specific immune responses is crucial to control and finally cure HBV. The therapeutic hepatitis B vaccine TherVacB combines protein priming with a Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA)-vector boost to break immune tolerance in chronic HBV infection. Particulate protein and vector vaccine components, however, require a constant cooling chain for storage and transport, posing logistic and financial challenges to vaccine applications. We aimed to identify an optimal formulation to maintain stability and immunogenicity of the protein and vector components of the vaccine using a systematic approach. Methods: We used stabilizing amino acid (SAA)-based formulations to stabilize HBsAg and HBV core particles (HBcAg), and the MVA-vector. We then investigated the effect of lyophilization and short- and long-term high-temperature storage on their integrity. Immunogenicity and safety of the formulated vaccine was validated in HBV-naïve and adeno-associated virus (AAV)-HBV-infected mice. Results: In vitro analysis proved the vaccine's stability against thermal stress during lyophilization and the long-term stability of SAA-formulated HBsAg, HBcAg and MVA during thermal stress at 40 °C for 3 months and at 25 °C for 12 months. Vaccination of HBV-naïve and AAV-HBV-infected mice demonstrated that the stabilized vaccine was well tolerated and able to brake immune tolerance established in AAV-HBV mice as efficiently as vaccine components constantly stored at 4 °C/−80 °C. Even after long-term exposure to elevated temperatures, stabilized TherVacB induced high titre HBV-specific antibodies and strong CD8+ T-cell responses, resulting in anti-HBs seroconversion and strong suppression of the virus in HBV-replicating mice. Conclusion: SAA-formulation resulted in highly functional and thermostable HBsAg, HBcAg and MVA vaccine components. This will facilitate global vaccine application without the need for cooling chains and is important for the development of prophylactic as well as therapeutic vaccines supporting vaccination campaigns worldwide. Impact and implications: Therapeutic vaccination is a promising therapeutic option for chronic hepatitis B that may enable its cure. However, its application requires functional cooling chains during transport and storage that can hardly be guaranteed in many countries with high demand. In this study, the authors developed thermostable vaccine components that are well tolerated and that induce immune responses and control the virus in preclinical mouse models, even after long-term exposure to high surrounding temperatures. This will lower costs and ease application of a therapeutic vaccine and thus be beneficial for the many people affected by hepatitis B around the world.

FachzeitschriftJHEP Reports
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Feb. 2023


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