The Spanish Government funds a project of IrsiCaixa focused on SARS-CoV-2 long-term immunity and T-cell vaccines

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The Spanish Government funds a project of IrsiCaixa focused on SARS-CoV-2 long-term immunity and T-cell vaccines

Researchers will study the immunity generated by T-lymphocytes, which confer prolonged protection | People with early infection will be screened up to one year, in order to track changes in the immune response

The Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) of the Spanish Government will fund, with funding from the Fondo COVID19, a project of IrsiCaixa to study the SARS-CoV-2 long-term immune response and how to apply this data to future vaccines.

The project is based on the lack of knowledge about the immunological memory response to SARS-CoV-2. This lack of information is due to the limited cases studied during the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 and the paucity of solid scientific data in humans. “Despite antibodies against the Spike protein of the virus protect, this protection is limited in time, is associated with the amount of circulating antibodies and it only protects against specific viral variants,” explains Julia García Prado, PI, IrsiCaixa researcher and scientific director of the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute. “That is why we will focus on T-lymphocytes, which can circulate for months or years and are essential for the long-term protection”, she adds.

The project will analyse the immune response of T cells in people exposed to the virus who have not suffered the infection or who have suffered it asymptomatically, and will compare it with those who have suffered the symptomatic infection to varying degrees. “We will screen samples from people with early infection up to one year later, in order to track the changes in the immune response,” García Prado says.


Second generation of vaccines

The final goal is to identify which regions of the virus generate a response from T lymphocytes. “These data will establish the rational basis for the design of a T-cell vaccine in a second phase, which will provide long-term protection,” according to Christian Brander, ICREA researcher at IrsiCaixa whose group, with wide experience in the development of T-cell vaccines, is collaborating on the project. “Our long experience in T-cell immunology against viruses such as HIV, Epstein-Barr or Hepatitis C and in the development of vaccines against HIV guarantees a rapid methodological implementation and will allow us to accelerate the study of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2,” Brander says.

The study also aims to determine the period required for the generation of protective immunity and to develop a methodology to evaluate the immunogenicity of T-cell vaccines.

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