Thermostabilization of viruses via complex coacervation†
Widespread vaccine coverage for viral diseases could save the lives of millions of people each year. For viral vaccines to be effective, they must be transported and stored in a narrow temperature range of 2–8 °C. If temperatures are not maintained, the vaccine may lose its potency and would no longer be effective in fighting disease; this is called the cold storage problem. Finding a way to thermally stabilize a virus and end the need to transport and store vaccines at refrigeration temperatures will increase access to life-saving vaccines. We explore the use of polymer-rich complex coacervates to stabilize viruses. We have developed a method of encapsulating virus particles in liquid complex coacervates that relies on the electrostatic interaction of viruses with polypeptides. In particular, we tested the incorporation of two model viruses; a non-enveloped porcine parvovirus (PPV) and an enveloped bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) into coacervates formed from poly(lysine) and poly(glutamate). We identified optimal conditions (i.e., the relative amount of the two polypeptides) for virus encapsulation, and trends in this composition matched differences in the isoelectric point of the two viruses. Furthermore, we were able to achieve a ∼103–104-fold concentration of virus into the coacervate phase, such that the level of virus remaining in the bulk solution approached our limit of detection. Lastly, we demonstrated a significant enhancement of the stability of non-enveloped PPV during an accelerated aging study at 60 °C over the course of a week. Our results suggest the potential for using coacervation to aid in the purification and formulation of both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses, and that coacervate-based formulations could help limit the need for cold storage throughout the transportation and storage of vaccines based on non-enveloped viruses.