Research Brief

U of M scientists develop a novel virus-like particle COVID-19 candidate vaccine

Source: Getty | Aleksej Sarifulin

U of M researchers have developed a novel virus-like particle vaccine against COVID-19. Having been successfully tested in animals, the novel vaccine — created as part of a study whose findings were recently published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens — offers a news approach to a potential human vaccine in the global battle against COVID-19 and its emerging variants

The researchers combined the advantages of the two types of traditional vaccines — virus-based vaccines and protein-based vaccines — by preparing a bacterial protein that self-assembles into a virus-like particle. By displaying a COVID-19 protein on the surface of this virus-like particle, researchers produced a novel vaccine that is well recognized by the mammalian immune system, but yet does not have any viral infectivity. 


  • Compared to the protein vaccine alone, the novel vaccine induced much stronger immune responses in animals. 
  • The novel vaccine was highly effective against COVID-19 variants. 
  • Testing showed that the novel vaccine effectively protects mice against COVID-19 infections.

Leading the research is Fang Li, Ph.D., a professor in the department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, in collaboration with Marc Jenkins Ph.D., a professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology. Graduate student Qibin Geng contributed to the design and development of the vaccine. Researchers from New York Blood Center and University of North Carolina contributed to the characterization and testing of the vaccine.

“The global battle against COVID-19 requires more varieties of potent and safe vaccines,” said Li. “The Virus-like-particle nanoparticle system will be further developed to present a variety of COVID-19 vaccines to help battle COVID-19 and its variants.”

Funding was provided by the University of Minnesota and the National Institutes of Health.

About the College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine affects the lives of animals and people every day through educational, research, service, and outreach programs. Established in 1947, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine is Minnesota’s only veterinary college. Fully accredited, the college has graduated more than 4,000 veterinarians and hundreds of scientists. The college is also home to the Veterinary Medical Center, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Leatherdale Equine Center and The Raptor Center. To learn more, visit