As the emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 continue to drive the worldwide pandemic, there is a constant demand for vaccines that offer more effective and broad-spectrum protection. Here, we report a circular RNA (circRNA) vaccine that elicited potent neutralizing antibodies and T cell responses by expressing the trimeric RBD of the spike protein, providing robust protection against SARS-CoV-2 in both mice and rhesus macaques. Notably, the circRNA vaccine enabled higher and more durable antigen production than the 1mΨ-modified mRNA vaccine, and elicited a higher proportion of neutralizing antibodies and distinct Th1-skewed immune responses. Importantly, we found that the circRNARBD-Omicron vaccine induced effective neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron but not the Delta variant. In contrast, the circRNARBD-Delta vaccine protected against both Delta and Omicron or functioned as a booster after two doses of either native- or Delta-specific vaccination, making it a favorable choice against the current variants of concern (VOCs) of SARS-CoV-2.
Available online 1 April 2022