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Novel T Cell Targets Found in Recovering COVID-19 Patients to Enable Development of Next-Generation Vaccines

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Oct 2020
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A study identifying the targets of specific T cells in recovering COVID-19 patients could enable the development of next-generation vaccines, T cell-based diagnostics, and T cell therapies for COVID-19.

TScan Therapeutics (Waltham, MA, USA) used its target discovery platform, T-Scan, to identify the precise epitope targets in the novel coronavirus that are recognized by the T cells of convalescent patients. The company found that T cells typically recognize between three and eight targets in coronavirus that are shared among patients with the same human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. Most of these targets were not located in the spike protein, a concerning finding as current vaccine development efforts are focused on eliciting an antibody response to the spike protein.

These findings highlight the potential need for second-generation vaccines that incorporate these targets given T cells play an important role in mediating long-term immunity to the virus, as well as the development of T-cell based diagnostics and T cell therapies. The TScan study also showed that patients’ T cells do not cross-react with seasonal coronaviruses that cause the common cold, decreasing the likelihood that prior exposure to these viruses confers immunity to COVID-19.

“T cells play a critical role in fighting viral infections and are particularly important in generating long-term immunity to future infections,” said Gavin MacBeath, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at TScan. “By determining exactly how T cells recognize the novel coronavirus in recovering patients, we can now design second-generation vaccines that elicit a more natural T cell response to the virus than vaccine candidates currently in development. The discovery that antibodies against the virus tend to diminish rapidly in recovering patients underscores the need for new approaches to support the fight against this pandemic.”

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