CHOP Researchers Identify Targets for COVID-19 Vaccine Using Cancer Immunotherapy Tools; 65 Peptide Sequences That, When Targeted, Offer Greatest Probability of Providing Population-Scale Immunity Have Been Identified

Cancer researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have harnessed tools normally used for the development of cancer immunotherapies and adapted them to identify regions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to target with a vaccine, employing the same approach used to elicit an immune response against cancer cells to stimulate an immune response against the virus. Using this strategy, the researchers believe a resulting vaccine would provide protection across the human population and drive a long-term immune response. The strategy is described in an article published online on June 5, 2020 in Cell Reports Medicine. The open-access article is titled “Identification of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Epitopes Predicted to Induce Long-Term Population-Scale Immunity.” "In many ways, cancer behaves like a virus, so our team decided to use the tools we developed to identify unique aspects of childhood cancers that can be targeted with immunotherapies and apply those same tools to identify the right protein sequences to target in SARS-CoV-2," said senior author John M. Maris, MD, a pediatric oncologist in CHOP's Cancer Center and the Giulio D'Angio Professor of Pediatric Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "By adapting the computational tools developed and now refined by lead author Mark Yarmarkovich, PhD in the Maris Lab, we can now prioritize viral targets based on their ability to stimulate a lasting immune response, predicted to be in the vast majority of the human population. We think our approach provides a roadmap for a vaccine that would be both safe and effective and could be produced at scale." The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an urgent need for the development of a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
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