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1. WO2011005799 - RNA CONTAINING MODIFIED NUCLEOTIDES AND USE THEREOF IN VACCINES

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[ EN ]

SELF REPLICATING RNA MOLECULES AND USES THEREOF

RELATED APPLICATION

[001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Patent Application No. 61/223,347, filed on July 6, 2009, the entire teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

[002] Nucleic acids that encode gene products, such as proteins and RNA (e.g., small

RNA) can be delivered directly to a desired vertebrate subject, or can be delivered ex vivo to cells obtained or derived from the subject, and the cells can be re -implanted into the subject. Delivery of such nucleic acids to a vertebrate subject is desirable for many purposes, such as, for gene therapy, to induce an immune response against an encoded polypeptide, or to regulate the expression of endogenous genes. The use of this approach has been hindered because free DNA is not readily taken up by cells, and free RNA is rapidly degraded in vivo. Accordingly, nucleic acid delivery systems have been used to improve the efficiency of nucleic acid delivery.

[003] Nucleic acid delivery systems can be classified into two general categories, recombinant viral system and nonviral systems. Viruses, as viral vectors, are highly efficient delivery system that have evolved to infect cells. Some viruses have been altered to produce viral vectors that are not infectious, but are still able to efficiently deliver nucleic acids that encode exogenous gene products to host cells. However, certain types of virus vectors, such as recombinant viruses, still have potential safety and effectiveness concerns. For example, infectious virus may be produced through recombination events between vector components when a vector is produced using a method that involves packaging, viral proteins may induce an undesirable immune response, which can shorten the time of transgene expression and even prevent repetitive use of the recombinant virus. See, e.g., Seung et al. Gene Therapy 10:706-711 (2003), Tsai et al. Clin. Cancer. Res. 10:7199-7206 (2004).

[004] In addition, there are limitations on the size of the nucleic acid that can be delivered using recombinant viruses, which can prevent the delivery of large nucleic acids or multiple nucleic acids. Commonly investigated non- viral delivery systems include delivery of free nucleic acid such as DNA or RNA, and delivery of formulations that contain nucleic acid and lipids {e.g., liposomes), polycations or other agents intended to increase the rate of

transfection. See, e.g., Montana et al, Bioconjugate Chem. 18:302-308 (2007), Ouahabi et al., FEBS Letters, 380:108-112, (1996). However, these types of delivery systems are generally less efficient than recombinant viruses.

[005] The immune response induced by nucleic acid vaccines should include reactivity to the antigen encoded by the nucleic acid and confer pathogen-specific immunity. Antigen duration, dose and the type of antigen presentation to the immune system are important factors that relate to the type and magnitude of an immune response. The efficacy of nucleic acid vaccination is often limited by inefficient uptake of the nucleic acids into cells. Generally, less than 1% of the muscle or skin cells at the site of injection express the gene of interest. This low efficiency is particularly problematic when it is desirable for the genetic vaccine to enter a particular subset of the cells present in a target tissue. See, e.g., Restifo et al., Gene Therapy 7:89-92 (2000).

[006] Self-replicating RNA molecules, which replicate in host cells leading to an amplification of the amount of RNA encoding the desired gene product, can enhance efficiency of RNA delivery and expression of the encoded gene products. See, e.g., Johanning, F.W., et al, Nucleic Acids Res., 23(9):1495-1501 (1995); Khromykh, A. A., Current Opinion in Molecular Therapeutics, 2(5):556-570 (2000); Smerdou et al., Current Opinion in Molecular Therapeutics, 1(2):244-251 (1999). Self-replicating RNAs have been produced as virus particles and as free RNA molecules. However, free RNA molecules are rapidly degraded in vivo, and most RNA-based vaccines that have been tested have had limited ability to provide antigen at a dose and duration required to produce a strong, durable immune response. See, e.g., Probst et al., Genetic Vaccines and Therapy, 4:4; doi:10.1186/1479-0556-4-4 (2006).

[007] There remains a need for efficient delivery of RNA for in vivo expression of gene products, such as proteins and RNA, for example, in quantities and for a period of time sufficient to produce therapeutic and/or prophylactic benefits. There is also a need for nucleic acid compositions that have low toxicity and high cell transfection efficiency, and that can be prepared easily in small or large scale.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[008] The invention relates to self-replicating RNA molecules that contain a modified nucleotide. Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules contain a heterologous sequence

encoding gene product, such as a target protein (e.g. an antigen) or an RNA (e.g., a small RNA). In some embodiments, the self-replicating RNA molecules are based on the RNA genome of an alpha virus.

[009] In one aspect the invention is a self-replicating RNA molecule comprising at least two nucleosides that each, independently, comprise at least one chemical modification. The modified nucleosides can be the same or different. For example the self-replicating RNA molecule can contain two or more pseudouracil nucleosides, or a first pseudouracil nucleoside and a second -methylcytosine nucleoside. The modified nucleosides in the self-replicating RNA molecules are components of modified nucleotides. In some embodiments, about 0.01% to about 25% of the nucleotides in the self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides. For example, about 0.01% to about 25% of the nucleotides that contain uracil, cytosine, adenine, or guanine in the self-replicating RNA molecule can be modified nucleotides.

[0010] In one embodiment, the invention provides a composition comprising a self-replicating RNA molecule comprising at least one nucleoside which has at least one chemical modification, wherein the nucleoside contains a 5 carbon sugar moiety linked to a substituted pyrimidine.

[0011] In one embodiment, the invention provides composition comprising a self-replicating RNA molecule comprising at least one nucleoside which has at least one chemical modification, wherein the nucleoside contains a 5 carbon sugar moiety linked to a substituted adenine.

[0012] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a pseudouridine attwo or more positions.

[0013] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a N6-methyladenosine at two or more positions.

[0014] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a 5-methylcytidine at two or more positions.

[0015] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a 5-methyluridine at two or more positions.

[0016] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a modified nucleotide, wherein 0.01%-25% of the nucleotides in the RNA molecule are modified nucleotides.

[0017] In one embodiment, the invention provides self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a modified nucleotide, wherein 0.01%-25% of a particular nucleotide are modified nucleotides.

[0018] A self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a modified nucleotide, wherein

0.01%-25% of two, three or four particular nucleotides are substituted nucleotides.

[0019] In one embodiment, the invention provides composition comprising a self-replicating RNA molecule comprising at least one nucleoside which has at least one chemical modification, wherein the modified nucleoside is selected from the group consisting of hypoxanthine, inosine, 8-oxo-adenine, 7-substituted derivatives thereof, dihydrouracil, pseudouracil, 2-thiouracil, 4-thiouracil, 5-aminouracil, 5-(Cl-C6)-alkyluracil, 5-methyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkynyluracil, 5- (hydroxymethyl)uracil, 5-chlorouracil, 5-fluorouracil, 5-bromouracil, 5 -hydroxy cytosine, 5-(Cl-C6)-alkylcytosine, 5-methylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)alkynylcytosine, 5-chlorocytosine, 5-fluorocytosine, 5-bromocytosine, N2-dimethylguanine, 7-deazaguanine, 8-azaguanine, 7-deaza-7-substituted guanine, 7-deaza-7-(C2-C6)alkynylguanine, 7-deaza-8-substituted guanine, 8-hydroxyguanine, 6-thioguanine, 8-oxoguanine, 2-aminopurine, 2-amino-6-chloropurine, 2,4-diaminopurine, 2,6-diaminopurine, 8-azapurine, substituted 7-deazapurine, 7-deaza-7-substituted purine, 7-deaza-8-substituted purine, hydrogen (abasic residue), and any combination thereof.

[0020] In one embodiment, the invention provides composition comprising a self-replicating RNA molecule comprising at least one nucleoside which has at least one chemical modification, wherein the at least one nucleoside of the self-replicating RNA molecule is an analogue of a naturally occurring nucleoside, and wherein the analogue is selected from the group consisting of dihydrouridine, methyladenosine, methylcytidine, methyluridine, methylpseudouridine, thiouridine, deoxycytodine, and deoxyuridine.

[0021] The self-replicating RNA molecules generally comprises at least about 4kb.

Some self-replicating RNA molecule encode at least one antigen, such as a viral, bacterial, fungal or protozoan antigen.

[0022] In some embodiments, the chemically modified nucleosides are, independently, selected from the group consisting of hypoxanthine, inosine, 8-oxo-adenine, 7-substituted derivatives thereof, dihydrouracil, pseudouracil, 2-thiouracil, 4-thiouracil, 5-aminouracil, 5 -(C1-Ce)-alkyluracil, 5-methyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkynyluracil, 5-

(hydroxymethyl)uracil, 5-chlorouracil, 5-fluorouracil, 5-bromouracil, 5 -hydroxy cytosine, 5-(C1-C6)-alkylcytosine, 5-methylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)-alkynylcytosine, 5-chlorocytosine, 5-fluorocytosine, 5-bromocytosine, N2-dimethylguanine, 7-deazaguanine, 8-azaguanine, 7-deaza-7-substituted guanine, 7-deaza-7-(C2-C6)alkynylguanine, 7-deaza-8-substituted guanine, 8-hydroxyguanine, 6-thioguanine, 8-oxoguanine, 2-aminopurine, 2-amino-6-chloropurine, 2,4-diaminopurine, 2,6-diaminopurine, 8-azapurine, substituted 7-deazapurine, 7-deaza-7-substituted purine, 7-deaza-8-substituted purine, hydrogen (abasic residue), and any combination thereof.

[0023] In particular embodiments, the nucleosides that comprise at least one chemical modification are selected from the group consisting of, or the modified nucleotide comprises a nucleoside selected from the group consisting of dihydrouridine, methyladenosine,

methylcytidine, methylguanosine, methyluridine, methylpseudouridine, thiouridine,

deoxycytodine, and deoxyuridine.

[0024] In another aspect, the invention relates to pharmaceutical compositions (e.g. , immunogenic compositions and vaccines) that comprise a self-replicating RNA molecule as described herein, and a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier and/or a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. The pharmaceutical composition can further comprise at least one adjuvant and/or a nucleic acid delivery system. In some embodiments, the composition further comprising a cationic lipid, a liposome, a cochleate, a virosome, an immune-stimulating complex, a microp article, a microsphere, a nanosphere, a unilamellar vesicle, a multilamellar vesicle, an oil-in-water emulsion, a water-in-oil emulsion, an emulsome, and a polycationic peptide, a cationic nanoemulsion or combinations thereof.

[0025] In particular embodiments, the self-replicating RNA molecule is encapsulated in, bound to or adsorbed on a cationic lipid, a liposome, a cochleate, a virosome, an immune-stimulating complex, a microparticle, a microsphere, a nanosphere, a unilamellar vesicle, a multilamellar vesicle, an oil-inwater emulsion, a water-in-oil emulsion, an emulsome, and a polycationic peptide, a cationic nanoemulsion and combinations thereof.

[0026] In another aspect, the invention relates to methods of using the self-replicating

RNA molecules and pharmaceutical compositions described herein, including medical use to treat or prevent disease, such as an infectious disease. Such methods comprise administering an effective amount of a self-replicating RNA molecule or pharmaceutical composition, as

described herein, to a subject in need thereof. For example, the invention provides for the use of self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention that encode an antigen for inducing an immune response in a subject.

[0027] The invention also relates to a method for inducing an immune response in a subject comprising administering to the subject an effective amount of a pharmaceutical composition as described herein.

[0028] The invention also relates to a method of vaccinating a subject, comprising administering to the subject a pharmaceutical composition as described herein.

[0029] The invention also relates to a method for inducing a mammalian cell to produce a protein of interest, comprising the step of contacting the cell with a pharmaceutical composition as described herein, under conditions suitable for the uptake of the self-replicating RNA molecule by the cell.

[0030] The invention also relates to a method for gene delivery comprising administering to a pharmaceutical composition as described herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0031] FIGS. 1 A-ID are HPLC chromatograms with inset fluorescent microscopy images of unfixed BHK-21 cells 24 hours after electroporation with unmodified and base-modified self-replicating RNA encoding green fluorescent protein (GFP) that contain no M5C, 25% M5C, 50% M5C or 100% M5C. FIGS. 1A-1D show that GFP expression decreased as the amount of M5C in the self-replicating RNA increased.

[0032] FIG. 2 is a graph showing the percentage yield of in vitro transcription reactions of VEE/SIN self-replicating RNA encoding GFP plasmid (T7 polymerase) with replacement of one of the nucleoside triphosphates with the corresponding 5 'triphosphate derivate of the following modified nucleosides: 5,6-dihydrouridine (D), Nl-methyladenosine (MlA), N6-methyladenosine (M6A), 5-methylcytidine (M5C), Nlmethylguanosine (MlG), 5-methyluridine (M5U), 2'-O-methyl-5-methyluridine (M5Um), 2'-O-methylpseudouridine, (Ψm), pseudouridine (Ψ), 2-thiocytidine (S2C), 2-thiouridine (S2U), 4-thiouridine (S4U), 2-O-methylcytidine (Cm) and 2-O-methyluridine (Um). The concentration of RNA samples reconstituted in water were determined by measuring the optical density at 260 nm. The mass of RNA produced using the unmodified bases was set at 100%.

[0033] FIG. 3 is a graph showing RSV-F specific antibody titers from BALB/c mice vaccinated with alphavirus replicon RNA encoding RSV-F, replicon RNA encoding RSV-F adsorbed to CNEOl, or with alphavirus replicon particles (encoding RSV-F).

[0034] FIG. 4 is Table 1, and shows the F-specific serum IgG titers on day 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2) induced by immunization with A317 replicon or A317 replicon containing 10% M5U. F-specific serum IgG titers of mice, 8 animals per group, after intramuscular vaccinations on days 0 and 21. Serum was collected for antibody analysis on days 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2). Data are represented as individual mice and the geometric mean titers of 8 individual mice per group. If an individual animal had a titer of <25 (limit of detection) it was assigned a titer of 5. A317u = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing unmodified bases only. A317m = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing modified base at the specified percentage and type.

[0035] FIG. 5 is Table 2, and shows the F-specific serum IgG titers on day 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2) induced by immunization with A317 replicon formulated with liposome

RVOl(Ol). F-specific serum IgG titers of mice, 8 animals per group, after intramuscular vaccinations on days 0 and 21. Serum was collected for antibody analysis on days 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2). Data are represented as individual mice and the geometric mean titers of 8 individual mice per group. If an individual animal had a titer of <25 (limit of detection) it was assigned a titer of 5. A317u = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing unmodified bases only. A317m = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing modified base at the specified percentage and type.

[0036] FIG. 6 is Table 3, and shows the F-specific serum IgG titers on day 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2) induced by immunization with A317 replicon containing 10% M5U formulated with liposome RVOl(Ol). F-specific serum IgG titers of mice, 8 animals per group, after intramuscular vaccinations on days 0 and 21. Serum was collected for antibody analysis on days 14 (2wpl) and 35 (2wp2). Data are represented as individual mice and the geometric mean titers of 8 individual mice per group. If an individual animal had a titer of <25 (limit of detection) it was assigned a titer of 5. A317u = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing unmodified bases only. A317m = TC83 replicon expressing RSV-F and containing modified base at the specified percentage and type.

[0037] FIG. 7 is Table 4, and shows frequencies of RSV F-specific CD4+ splenic T cells on day 49 (4wp2). Shown are net (antigen-specific) cytokine-positive frequency (%) ± 95% confidence half-interval. Net frequencies shown in bold indicate stimulated responses that were statistically significantly > 0.

[0038] FIG. 8 is Table 5, Table 4B. and shows frequencies of F-specific splenic CD8+ T cell frequencies on day 49 (4wp2). Shown are net (antigen-specific) cytokine-positive frequency (%) ± 95% confidence half-interval. Net frequencies shown in bold indicate stimulated responses that were statistically significantly > 0.

[0039] FIG. 9 shows the sequence of the plasmid encoding the pT7-TC83R-FL.RSVF

(A317) self-replicating RNA molecule which encodes the respiratory syncytial virus F glycoprotein (RSV-F). The nucleotide sequence encoding RSV-F is highlighted.

[0040] FIG. 10 shows the sequence of plasmid encoding the pT7-TC83R-SEAP (A306) self-replicating RNA molecule which encodes secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP). The nucleotide sequence encoding SEAP is highlighted.

[0041] FIG. 11 shows the sequence of the plasmid encoding the pSP6-VCR-CHIM2.1- GFP self-replicating RNA molecule which encodes GFP. The nucleotide sequence encoding GFP is highlighted.

[0042] FIG. 12 shows the sequence of plasmid, encoding the chimeric VEE/SIN self-replicating RNA that encodes RSV-F and contains a SP6 promoter. The nucleotide sequence encoding RSV-F is highlighted.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0043] The present invention relates to self-replicating RNA molecules and methods for using self-replicating RNA for therapeutic purposes, such as for immunization or gene therapy.

[0044] The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention contain modified nucleotides and therefore have improved stability and are resistant to degradation and clearance in vivo. The presence of one or more modified nucleotides in the self-replicating RNA also provides other advantages. Unexpectedly, self-replicating RNA molecules that contain modified nucleotides retain the ability to self-replicate in cells and, thus, can be used to induce expression and over expression of encoded gene products, such as RNA or proteins {e.g., an antigen) encoded by the self-replicating RNA. In addition, self-replicating RNA molecules are generally based on the genome of an RNA virus, and therefore are foreign nucleic acids that can stimulate the innate immune system. This can lead to undesired consequences and safety concerns, such as rapid inactivation and clearance of the RNA, injection site irritation and/or inflammation and/or pain. The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention contain modified nucleotides and have reduced capacity to stimulate the innate immune system. This provides for enhanced safety of the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention and provides additional advantages. For example, a large dose of the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can be

administered to produce high expression levels of the encoded gene product before the self-replicating RNA molecule is amplified in the hosts cells, with reduced risk of undesired effects, such as injection site irritation and or pain. In addition, because the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention have reduced capacity to stimulate the innate immune system, they are well suited to use as vaccines to boost immunity.

[0045] When unmodified RNA is delivered to cells by viral or non-viral delivery, the

RNA is recognized as foreign nucleic acid by endosomal and cytoplasmic immune receptors, such as the toll-like receptors 3, 7 and 8 of the endosomes, retinoic acid-induced gene ( RIG-I), melanoma differentiation-associated gene-5 (MD A-5) and laboratory of genetics and physio logy-2 (LGP2) receptors of the cytoplasm. Stimulation of these immune receptors by a self-replicating RNA that does not include modified nucleotides is expected to modulate the immune response which could impact expression of gene products encoded by the RNA, amplification of and adjuvant effect of the self-replicating RNA, the immune response to encoded proteins (i.e., decreased potency of vaccine), and could also lead to safety concerns, such as injection site irritation and/or inflammation and/or pain. RNA-responsive toll-like receptors (TLRs), and other RNA sensors with regulatory or effector immune functions, might react differently when mRNA (1.5 kb) nucleosides are modified. See, e.g., Kariko, K et al Current Opinion in Drug Discovery & Development 10(5):5230532 (2007); Kariko, K et al, Molecular Therapy, 16(11): 1833-1840 (2008); Kariko, K et al, Immunity, 23:165-175 (2005); WO 2007/024708; and WO 2008/052770.

[0046] Self-replicating RNA molecules as described herein (e.g., when delivered in the form of naked RNA) can amplify themselves and initiate expression and overexpression of heterologous gene products in the host cell. Self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention, unlike mRNA, use their own encoded viral polymerase to amplify itself. Particular self-

replicating RNA molecules of the invention, such as those based on alphaviruses, generate large amounts of subgenomic mRNAs from which large amounts of proteins (or small RNAs) can be expressed.

[0047] Advantageously, the cell's machinery is used by self-replicating RNA molecules to generate an exponential increase of encoded gene products, such as proteins or antigens, which can accumulate in the cells or be secreted from the cells. Overexpression of proteins or antigens by self-replicating RNA molecules takes advantage of the immunostimulatory adjuvant effects, including stimulation of toll-like receptors (TLR) 3, 7 and 8 and non TLR pathways (e.g, RIG-I, MD-5) by the products of RNA replication and amplification, and translation which induces apoptosis of the transfected cell.

[0048] Without wishing to be bound by any particular theory, it is believed that the self-replicating RNA molecules that contain modified nucleotides avoid or reduce stimulation of endosomal and cytoplasmic immune receptors when the self-replicating RNA is delivered into a cell. This permits self-replication, amplification and expression of protein to occur. This also reduces safety concern, relative to self-replicating RNA that does not contain modified nucleotides, because of reduced activation of the innate immune system and subsequent undesired consequences (e.g., inflammation at injection site, irritation at injection site, pain, and the like).

[0049] It is also believed that the RNA molecules produced as a result of self-replication are recognized as foreign nucleic acids by the cytoplasmic immune receptors. Thus, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can provide for efficient amplification of the RNA in a host cell and expression of gene product, as well as adjuvant effects.

[0050] It is important to note that while many of the approaches described in this specification and the examples given are focused on vaccine development, they are equally applicable to self replicating RNA for other intended uses, such as for gene therapy or gene regulation.

[0051 ] "Nucleotide" is a term of art that refers to a molecule that contains a nucleoside or deoxynucleoside, and at least one phosphate. A nucleoside or deoxynucleoside contains a single 5 carbon sugar moiety (e.g., ribose or deoxyribose) linked to a nitrogenous base, which is either a substituted pyrimidine (e.g., cytosine (C), thymine (T) or uracil (U)) or a substituted purine (e.g., adenine (A) or guanine (G)).

[0052] As used herein, "nucleotide analog" or "modified nucleotide" refers to a nucleotide that contains one or more chemical modifications (e.g. , substitutions) in or on the nitrogenous base of the nucleoside (e.g., cytosine (C), thymine (T) or uracil (U)), adenine (A) or guanine (G)). A nucleotide analog can contain further chemical modifications in or on the sugar moiety of the nucleoside (e.g., ribose, deoxyribose, modified ribose, modified deoxyribose, six-membered sugar analog, or open-chain sugar analog), or the phosphate.

[0053] An "effective amount" of a self-replicating RNA refers to an amount sufficient to elicit expression of a detectable amount of an antigen or protein, preferably an amount suitable to produce a desired therapeutic or prophylactic effect.

[0054] The term "naked" as used herein refers to nucleic acids that are substantially free of other macromolecules, such as lipids, polymers, and proteins. A "naked" nucleic acid, such as a self-replicating RNA, is not formulated with other macromolecules to improve cellular uptake. Accordingly, a naked nucleic acid is not encapsulated in, absorbed on, or bound to a liposome, a microparticle or nanoparticle, a cationic emulsion, and the like.

[0055] The terms "treat," "treating" or "treatment", as used herein, include alleviating, abating or ameliorating disease or condition symptoms, preventing additional symptoms, ameliorating or preventing the underlying metabolic causes of symptoms, inhibiting the disease or condition, e.g., arresting the development of the disease or condition, relieving the disease or condition, causing regression of the disease or condition, relieving a condition caused by the disease or condition, or stopping the symptoms of the disease or condition. The terms "treat," "treating" or "treatment", include, but are not limited to, prophylactic and/or therapeutic treatments.

SELF-REPLICATING RNA MOLECULES

[0056] The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention contain one or more modified nucleotides. The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are based on the genomic RNA of RNA viruses, but lack the genes encoding one or more structural proteins. The self-replicating RNA molecules are capable of being translated to produce non-structural proteins of the RNA virus and heterologous proteins encoded by the self-replicating RNA.

[0057] The self-replicating RNA generally contains at least one or more genes selected from the group consisting of viral replicase, viral proteases, viral helicases and other

nonstructural viral proteins, and also comprise 5'- and 3 '-end cώ-active replication sequences, and if desired, a heterologous sequence that encode a desired amino acid sequences (e.g. , a protein, an antigen). A subgenomic promoter that directs expression of the heterologous sequence can be included in the self-replicating RNA. If desired, the heterologous sequence may be fused in frame to other coding regions in the self-replicating RNA and/or may be under the control of an internal ribosome entry site (IRES).

[0058] Self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can be designed so that the self-replicating RNA molecule cannot induce production of infectious viral particles. This can be achieved, for example, by omitting one or more viral genes encoding structural proteins that are necessary for the production of viral particles in the self-replicating RNA. For example, when the self-replicating RNA molecule is based on an alpha virus, such as Sindbis virus (SIN), Semliki forest virus and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE), one or more genes encoding viral structural proteins, such as capsid and/or envelope glycoproteins, can be omitted. If desired, self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can be designed to induce production of infectious viral particles that are attenuated or virulent, or to produce viral particles that are capable of a single round of subsequent infection.

[0059] A self-replicating RNA molecule can, when delivered to a vertebrate cell even without any proteins, lead to the production of multiple daughter RNAs by transcription from itself (or from an antisense copy of itself). The self-replicating RNA can be directly translated after delivery to a cell, and this translation provides a RNA-dependent RNA polymerase which then produces transcripts from the delivered RNA. Thus the delivered RNA leads to the production of multiple daughter RNAs. These transcripts are antisense relative to the delivered RNA and may be translated themselves to provide in situ expression of a gene product, or may be transcribed to provide further transcripts with the same sense as the delivered RNA which are translated to provide in situ expression of the gene product.

[0060] One suitable system for achieving self-replication is to use an alphavirus-based

RNA replicon. These +-stranded replicons are translated after delivery to a cell to give of a replicase (or replicase-transcriptase). The replicase is translated as a polyprotein which auto-cleaves to provide a replication complex which creates genomic— strand copies of the +-strand delivered RNA. These— strand transcripts can themselves be transcribed to give further copies of the +-stranded parent RNA and also to give a subgenomic transcript which encodes the

desired gene product. Translation of the subgenomic transcript thus leads to in situ expression of the desired gene product by the infected cell. Suitable alphavirus replicons can use a replicase from a sindbis virus, a semliki forest virus, an eastern equine encephalitis virus, a Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, etc.

[0061] A preferred self-replicating RNA molecule thus encodes (i) a RNA-dependent

RNA polymerase which can transcribe RNA from the self-replicating RNA molecule and (ii) a desired gene product, such as an antigen. The polymerase can be an alphavirus replicase e.g. comprising alphavirus protein nsP4.

[0062] Whereas natural alphavirus genomes encode structural virion proteins in addition to the non-structural replicase polyprotein, it is preferred that an alphavirus based self-replicating RNA molecule of the invention does not encode alphavirus structural proteins. Thus the self-replicating RNA can lead to the production of genomic RNA copies of itself in a cell, but not to the production of RNA-containing alphavirus virions. The inability to produce these virions means that, unlike a wild-type alphavirus, the self-replicating RNA molecule cannot perpetuate itself in infectious form. The alphavirus structural proteins which are necessary for perpetuation in wild-type viruses are absent from self-replicating RNAs of the invention and their place is taken by gene(s) encoding the desired gene product, such that the subgenomic transcript encodes the desired gene product rather than the structural alphavirus virion proteins.

[0063] Thus a self-replicating RNA molecule useful with the invention may have two open reading frames. The first (5') open reading frame encodes a replicase; the second (3') open reading frame encodes a desired gene product. In some embodiments the RNA may have additional (downstream or upstream) open reading frames e.g. that encode further desired gene products, which can be under the control of an IRES. A self-replicating RNA molecule can have a 5' sequence which is compatible with the encoded replicase.

[0064] In one aspect, the self-replicating RNA molecule is derived from or based on an alphavirus. In other aspects, the self-replicating RNA molecule is derived from or based on a virus other than an alphavirus, preferably, a positive-stranded RNA viruses, and more preferably a picornavirus, flavivirus, rubivirus, pestivirus, hepacivirus, calicivirus, or coronavirus. Suitable wild-type alphavirus sequences are well-known and are available from sequence depositories, such as the American Type Culture Collection, Rockville, Md. Representative examples of suitable alphaviruses include Aura (ATCC VR-368), Bebaru virus (ATCC VR-600, ATCC VR-

1240), Cabassou (ATCC VR-922), Chikungunya virus (ATCC VR-64, ATCC VR- 1241), Eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus (ATCC VR-65, ATCC VR- 1242), Fort Morgan (ATCC VR-924), Getah virus (ATCC VR-369, ATCC VR-1243), Kyzylagach (ATCC VR-927), Mayaro (ATCC VR-66), Mayaro virus (ATCC VR-1277), Middleburg (ATCC VR-370), Mucambo virus (ATCC VR-580, ATCC VR-1244), Ndumu (ATCC VR-371), Pixuna virus (ATCC VR-372, ATCC VR-1245), Ross River virus (ATCC VR-373, ATCC VR-1246), Semliki Forest (ATCC VR-67, ATCC VR-1247), Sindbis virus (ATCC VR-68, ATCC VR-1248), Tonate (ATCC VR-925), Triniti (ATCC VR-469), Una (ATCC VR-374), Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (ATCC VR-69, ATCC VR-923, ATCC VR-1250 ATCC VR-1249, ATCC VR-532), Western equine encephalomyelitis (ATCC VR-70, ATCC VR-1251, ATCC VR-622, ATCC VR-1252), Whataroa (ATCC VR-926), and Y-62-33 (ATCC VR-375).

[0065] The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are larger than other types of

RNA (e.g. mRNA) that have been prepared using modified nucleotides. Typically, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention contain at least about 4kb. For example, the self-replicating RNA can contain at least about 5kb, at least about 6kb, at least about 7kb, at least about 8kb, at least about 9kb, at least about 10kb, at least about 1 lkb, at least about 12kb or more than 12kb. In certain examples, the self-replicating RNA is about 4kb to about 12kb, about 5kb to about 12kb, about 6kb to about 12kb, about 7kb to about 12kb, about 8kb to about 12kb, about 9kb to about 12kb, about 10kb to about 12kb, about 1 lkb to about 12kb, about 5kb to about 1 lkb, about 5kb to about 10kb, about 5kb to about 9kb, about 5kb to about 8kb, about 5kb to about 7kb, about 5kb to about 6kb, about 6kb to about 12kb, about 6kb to about 1 lkb, about 6kb to about 10kb, about 6kb to about 9kb, about 6kb to about 8kb, about 6kb to about 7kb, about 7kb to about 1 lkb, about 7kb to about 10kb, about 7kb to about 9kb, about 7kb to about 8kb, about 8kb to about 1 lkb, about 8kb to about 10kb, about 8kb to about 9kb, about 9kb to about 1 lkb, about 9kb to about 10kb, or about 10kb to about 1 lkb.

[0066] The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention comprise at least one modified nucleotide. Accordingly, the self-replicating RNA molecule can contain a modified nucleotide at a single position, can contain a particular modified nucleotide (e.g., pseudouridine, N6-methyladenosine, 5-methylcytidine, 5-methyluridine) at two or more positions, or can contain two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten or more modified nucleotides (e.g., each at one or more positions). Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention

comprise modified nucleotides that contain a modification on or in the nitrogenous base, but do not contain modified sugar or phosphate moieties. Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention comprise at least one modified nucleotide that is not a component of a 5' cap.

[0067] In some examples, between 0.001% and 99% or 100% of the nucleotides in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides. For example, 0.001% - 25%, 0.01%-25%, 0.1%-25%, or l%-25% of the nucleotides in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides.

[0068] In other examples, between 0.001% and 99% or 100% of a particular unmodified nucleotide in a self-replicating RNA molecule is replaced with a modified nucleotide. For example, about 1% of the nucleotides in the self-replicating RNA molecule that contain uridine can be modified, such as by replacement of uridine with pseudouridine. In other examples, the desired amount (percentage) of two, three, or four particular nucleotides (nucleotides that contain uridine, cytidine, guanosine, or adenine) in a self-replicating RNA molecule are substituted nucleotides. For example, 0.001% - 25%, 0.01%-25%, 0.1%-25, or l%-25% of a particular nucleotide in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides. In other examples, 0.001% - 20%, 0.001% - 15%, 0.001% - 10%, 0.01%-20%, 0.01%-15%, 0.1%-25, 0.01%-10%, l%-20%, 1%-15%, l%-10%, or about 5%, about 10%, about 15%, about 20% of a particular nucleotide in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides.

[0069] It is preferred that less than 100% of the nucleotides in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides. It is also preferred that less than 100% of a particular nucleotide in a self-replicating RNA molecule are modified nucleotides. Thus, preferred self-replicating RNA molecules comprise at least some unmodified nucleotides.

[0070] There are more than 96 naturally occurring nucleoside modifications found on mammalian RNA. See, e.g., Limbach et al, Nucleic Acids Research, 22(12):2183-2196 (1994). The preparation of nucleotides and modified nucleotides and nucleosides are well-known in the art, e.g. from US Patent Numbers 4373071, 4458066, 4500707, 4668777, 4973679, 5047524, 5132418, 5153319, 5262530, 5700642 all of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein, and many modified nucleosides and modified nucleotides are commercially available.

[0071] Modified nucleobases which can be incorporated into modified nucleosides and modified nucleotides and be present in the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention

include m5C (5-methylcytidine), m5U (5-methyluridine), m6A (N6-methyladenosine), s2U (2-thiouridine), Um (2'-0-methyluridine), mlA (1-methyl adenosine); m2A (2-methyladenosine); Am (2-1-O-methyladenosine); ms2m6A (2-methylthio-N6-methyladenosine); i6A (N6-isopentenyladenosine); ms2i6A (2-methylthio-N6isopentenyladenosine); io6A (N6-(cis-hydroxyisopentenyl)adenosine); ms2io6A (2-methylthio-N6-(cis-hydroxyisopentenyl) adenosine); g6A (Nβ-glycinylcarbamoyladenosine); t6A (N6-threonyl carbamoyladenosine); ms2t6A (2-methylthio-N6-threonyl carbamoyladenosine); m6t6A (N6-methyl-N6-threonylcarbamoyladenosine); hn6A(N6.-hydroxynorvalylcarbamoyl adenosine); ms2hn6A (2-methylthio-N6-hydroxynorvalyl carbamoyladenosine); Ar(p) (2'-O-ribosyladenosine

(phosphate)); I (inosine); mi l (1-methylinosine); m'lm (l,2'-O-dimethylinosine); m3C (3-methylcytidine); Cm (2T-O-methylcytidine); s2C (2-thiocytidine); ac4C (N4-acetylcytidine); f5C (5-fonnylcytidine); m5Cm (5,2-O-dimethylcytidine); ac4Cm (N4acetyl2TOmethylcytidine); k2C (lysidine); mlG (1-methylguanosine); m2G (N2-methylguanosine); m7G (7-methylguanosine); Gm (2'-O-methylguanosine); m22G (N2,N2-dimethylguanosine); m2Gm (N2,2'-O-dimethylguanosine); m22Gm (N2,N2,2'-O-trimethylguanosine); Gr(p) (2'-O-ribosylguanosine (phosphate)) ; yW (wybutosine); o2yW (peroxywybutosine); OHyW

(hydroxywybutosine); OHyW* (undermodified hydroxywybutosine); imG (wyosine); mimG (methylguanosine); Q (queuosine); oQ (epoxyqueuosine); galQ (galtactosyl-queuosine); manQ (mannosyl-queuosine); preQo (7-cyano-7-deazaguanosine); preQi (7-aminomethyl-7-deazaguanosine); G (archaeosine); D (dihydrouridine); m5Um (5,2'-O-dimethyluridine); s4U (4-thiouridine); m5s2U (5-methyl-2-thiouridine); s2Um (2-thio-2'-O-methyluridine); acp3U (3-(3-amino-3-carboxypropyl)uridine); ho5U (5-hydroxyuridine); mo5U (5-methoxyuridine); cmo5U (uridine 5-oxyacetic acid); mcmo5U (uridine 5-oxyacetic acid methyl ester); chm5U (5-(carboxyhydroxymethyl)uridine)); mchm5U (5-(carboxyhydroxymethyl)uridine methyl ester); mcm5U (5-methoxycarbonyl methyluridine); mcm5Um (S-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2-O-methyluricjine); mcm5s2U (5-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2-thiouridine); nm5s2U (5-aminomethyl-2-thiouridine); mnm5U (5-methylaminomethyluridine); mnm5s2U (5-methylaminomethyl-2-thiouridine); mnm5se2U (5-methylaminomethyl-2-selenouridine); ncm5U (5-carbamoylmethyl uridine); ncm5Um (5-carbamoylmethyl-2'-O-methyluridine); cmnm5U (5-carboxymethylaminomethyluridine); cnmm5Um (5-carboxymethy 1 aminomethyl-2-L-Omethyl uridine); cmnm5s2U (5-carboxymethylaminomethyl-2-thiouridine); m62A (N6,N6-

dimethyladenosine); Tm (2'-O-methylinosine); m4C (N4-methylcytidine); m4Cm (N4,2-O-dimethylcytidine); hm5C (5-hydroxymethylcytidine); m3U (3-methyluridine); cm5U (5-carboxymethyluridine); m6Am (N6,T-O-dimethyladenosine); rn62Am (N6,N6,O-2-trimethyladenosine); ni27G (N2,7-dimethylguanosine); ni2'27G (N2,N2,7-trimethylguanosine); m3Um (3,2T-O-dimethyluridine); m5D (5-methyldihydrouridine); f5Cm (5-formyl-2'-O-methylcytidine); mlGm (l,2'-O-dimethylguanosine); m'Am (1,2-0-dimethyl adenosine) irinomethyluridine); tm5s2U (S-taurinomethyl-2-thiouridine)); iniG-14 (4-demethyl guanosine); imG2 (isoguanosine); or ac6A (N6-acetyladenosine), hypoxanthine, inosine, 8-oxo-adenine, 7-substituted derivatives thereof, dihydrouracil, pseudouracil, 2-thiouracil, 4-thiouracil, 5-aminouracil, 5-(Ci-C6)-alkyluracil, 5-methyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenyluracil, 5-(C2-C6)-alkynyluracil, 5-(hydroxymethyl)uracil, 5-chlorouracil, 5-fluorouracil, 5-bromouracil, 5-hydroxycytosine, 5-(Ci-C6 )-alkylcytosine, 5-methylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)-alkenylcytosine, 5-(C2-C6)-alkynylcytosine, 5-chlorocytosine, 5-fluorocytosine, 5-bromocytosine, N2-dimethylguanine, 7-deazaguanine, 8-azaguanine, 7-deaza-7-substituted guanine, 7-deaza-7-(C2-C6)alkynylguanine, 7-deaza-8-substituted guanine, 8-hydroxyguanine, 6-thioguanine, 8-oxoguanine, 2-aminopurine, 2-amino-6-chloropurine, 2,4-diaminopurine, 2,6-diaminopurine, 8-azapurine, substituted 7-deazapurine, 7-deaza-7-substituted purine, 7-deaza-8-substituted purine, and hydrogen (abasic residue). m5C, m5U, m6A, s2U, W, or 2'-O-methyl-U. Any one or any combination of these modifications may be included in the self-replicating RNA of the invention. Many of these modified nucleobases and their corresponding ribonucleosides are available from commercial suppliers.

[0072] If desired, the self-replicating RNA molecule can contain phosphoramidate, phosphorothioate, and/or methylphosphonate linkages.

[0073] The self-replicating RNA molecule of the invention, e.g., an alpha virus replicon, may encode any desired gene product, such as RNA, small RNA, a polypeptide, a protein or a portion of a polypeptide or a portion of a protein. Additionally, the self-replicating RNA molecule may encode a single polypeptide or, optionally, two or more of sequences linked together in a way that each of the sequences retains its identity (e.g., linked in series) when expressed as an amino acid sequence. The polypeptides generated from the self-replicating RNA may then be produced as a fusion protein or engineered in such a manner to result in separate polypeptide or peptide sequences.

[0074] The self-replicating RNA of the invention may encode one or more immunogenic polypeptides, that contain a range of epitopes. Preferably epitopes capable of eliciting either a helper T-cell response or a cytotoxic T-cell response or both.

[0075] The self-replicating RNA molecules described herein may be engineered to express multiple nucleotide sequences, from two or more open reading frames, thereby allowing co-expression of proteins, such as a two or more antigens together with cytokines or other immunomodulators, which can enhance the generation of an immune response. Such a self-replicating RNA molecule might be particularly useful, for example, in the production of various gene products (e.g., proteins) at the same time, for example, as a bivalent or multivalent vaccine, or in gene therapy applications.

[0076] Exemplary gene products that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include proteins and peptides from pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, including malarial surface antigens and any antigenic viral protein, e.g. , proteins or peptides from respiratory syncytial virus (e.g., RSV -F protein), cytomegalovirus, parvovirus, flaviviruses, picornaviruses, norovirus, influenza virus, rhinovirus, yellow fever virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (e.g., HIV gpl20 (or gp 160), gag protein or part thereof), Haemagglutinin from influenza virus; and the like. Further exemplary antigens from pathogenic organisms that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are described herein. Additional exemplary gene products that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include any desired eukaryotic polypeptide such as, for example, a mammalian polypeptide such as an enzyme, e.g., chymosin or gastric lipase; an enzyme inhibitor, e.g., tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP); a hormone, e.g., growth hormone; a lymphokine, e.g., an interferon; a cytokine, e.g., an interleukin (e.g., IL-2, IL-4, IL-6 etc); a chemokine, e.g., macrophage inflammatory protein-2; a plasminogen activator, e.g., tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) or prourokinase; or a natural, modified or chimeric immunoglobulin or a fragment thereof including chimeric immunoglobulins having dual activity such as antibody enzyme or antibody-toxin chimeras, betagalactosidase; green fluorescence protein; or any desired combinations of the foregoing. Further exemplary gene products that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include RNA molecules, such as small RNAs, siRNA or microRNAs, that can be used to regulate expression of endogenous host genes.

[0077] The self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention comprise at least one modified nucleotide and can be prepared using any suitable method. Several suitable methods are known in the art for producing RNA molecules that contain modified nucleotides. For example, as described and exemplified herein, a self-replicating RNA molecule that contains modified nucleotides can be prepared by transcribing (e.g., in vitro transcription) a DNA that encodes the self-replicating RNA molecule using a suitable DNA-dependent RNA polymerase, such as T7 phage RNA polymerase, SP6 phage RNA polymerase, T3 phage RNA polymerase, and the like, or mutants of these polymerases which allow efficient incorporation of modified nucleotides into RNA molecules. The transcription reaction will contain nucleotides and modified nucleotides, and other components that support the activity of the selected polymerase, such as a suitable buffer, and suitable salts. The incorporation of nucleotide analogs into a self-replicating RNA may be engineered, for example, to alter the stability of such RNA molecules, to increase resistance against RNases, to establish replication after introduction into appropriate host cells ("infectivity" of the RNA), and/or to induce or reduce innate and adaptive immune responses.

[0078] Suitable synthetic methods can be used alone, or in combination with one or more other methods (e.g., recombinant DNA or RNA technology), to produce a self-replicating RNA molecule of the invention. Suitable methods for de novo synthesis are well-known in the art and can be adapted for particular applications. Exemplary methods include, for example, chemical synthesis using suitable protecting groups such as CEM (Masuda et al., (2007) Nucleic Acids Symposium Series 57:3-4), the β-cyanoethyl phosphoramidite method (Beaucage S L et al. (1981) Tetrahedron Lett 22:1859); nucleoside H-phosphonate method (Garegg P et al. (1986) Tetrahedron Lett 27:4051-4; Froehler B C et al. (1986) Nucl Acid Res 14:5399-407; Garegg P et al. (1986) Tetrahedron Lett 27:4055-8; Gaffney B L et al. (1988) Tetrahedron Lett 29:2619-22). These chemistries can be performed or adapted for use with automated nucleic acid synthesizers that are commercially available. Additional suitable synthetic methods are disclosed in Uhlmann et al. (1990) Chem Rev 90:544-84, and Goodchild J (1990) Bioconjugate Chem 1 : 165. Nucleic acid synthesis can also be performed using suitable recombinant methods that are well-known and conventional in the art, including cloning, processing, and/or expression of polynucleotides and gene products encoded by such polynucleotides. DNA shuffling by random fragmentation and PCR reassembly of gene fragments and synthetic polynucleotides are examples of known

techniques that can be used to design and engineer polynucleotide sequences. Site-directed mutagenesis can be used to alter nucleic acids and the encoded proteins, for example, to insert new restriction sites, alter glycosylation patterns, change codon preference, produce splice variants, introduce mutations and the like. Suitable methods for transcription, translation and expression of nucleic acid sequences are known and conventional in the art. (See generally, Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, Vol. 2, Ed. Ausubel, et al., Greene Publish. Assoc. & Wiley Interscience, Ch. 13, 1988; Glover, DNA Cloning, Vol. II, IRL Press, Wash., D.C., Ch. 3, 1986; Bitter, et al., in Methods in Enzymology 153:516-544 (1987); The Molecular Biology of the Yeast Saccharomyces, Eds. Strathern et al., Cold Spring Harbor Press, VoIs. I and II, 1982; and Sambrook et al., Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Press, 1989.)

[0079] The presence and/or quantity of one or more modified nucleotides in a self-replicating RNA molecule can be determined using any suitable method. For example, a self-replicating RNA can be digested to monophosphates (e.g., using nuclease Pl) and

dephosphorylated (e.g., using a suitable phosphatase such as CIAP), and the resulting nucleosides analyzed by reversed phase HPLC (e.g., usings a YMC Pack ODS-AQ column (5 micron, 4.6 X 250 mm) and elute using a gradient, 30% B (0-5 min) to 100 % B (5 - 13 min) and at 100 % B (13-40) min, flow Rate (0.7 ml/min), UV detection (wavelength: 260 nm), column temperature (300C). Buffer A (2OmM acetic acid - ammonium acetate pH 3.5), buffer B (2OmM acetic acid - ammonium acetate pH 3.5 / methanol [90/10])).

[0080] Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention include or contain a sufficient amount of modified nucleotides so that the self-replicating RNA molecule will have less immunomodulatory activity upon introduction or entry into a host cell (e.g. , a human cell) in comparison to the corresponding self-replicating RNA molecule that does not contain modified nucleotides. More preferably, when the self-replicating RNA molecule is intended to induce an immune response to an exogenous protein, the self-replicating RNA molecule of the invention will elicit a specific immune response after translation of nonstructural proteins, subsequent RNA replication, and expression of the exogenous antigen or protein of interest.

[0081] The relative immunogenicity of a self-replicating RNA molecule of the invention can be compared to that of the counterpart self-replicating RNA molecule that does not contain modified nucleotides. Suitable types and amounts of modified nucleotides for inclusion in the self-replicating RNA molecules, such as those that result in decreased TLR activation, increased RNA replication, and/or increased protein expression in comparison of the counterpart self-replicating RNA molecule that does not contain modified nucleotides can be determined using any suitable method, such as those described herein. In another aspect, the modified RNA molecule has decreased immunogenicty as a gene delivery vehicle compared to similarly modified mRNA or unmodified polynucleotide.

[0082] Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention will cause a host cell to produce more gene product (e.g., antigen encoded by heterologous sequence), relative to the amount of gene product produced by the same cell type that contains the corresponding self-replicating RNA molecule that does not contain modified nucleotides. Methods of determining translation efficiency are well known in the art, and include, e.g. measuring the activity or amount of an encoded protein (e.g. luciferase and/or GFP), the method described in Phillips AM et al, Effective translation of the second cistron in two Drosophila dicistronic transcripts is determined by the absence of in- frame AUG codons in the first cistron. J Biol Chem

2005;280(30): 27670-8, or measuring radioactive label incorporated into the translated protein (See, e.g., Ngosuwan J, Wang NM et al, J Biol Chem 2003;278(9): 7034-42).

[0083] Self-replicating RNA molecules can encode proteins (e.g, antigens) which are agonists, super-agonists, partial agonists, inverse agonists, antagonists, receptor binding modulators, receptor activity modulators, modulators of binding to binding partners, binding partner activity modulators, binding partner conformation modulators, dimer or multimer formation, unchanged in activity or property compared to the native protein molecule, or manipulated for any physical or chemical property of the polypeptide such as solubility, aggregation, or stability.

[0084] If desired, the self-replicating RNA molecules can be screened or analyzed to confirm their therapeutic and prophylactic properties using various in vitro or in vivo testing methods that are known to those of skill in the art. For example, vaccines composed of self-replicating RNA molecule can be tested for their effect on induction of proliferation or effector function of the particular lymphocyte type of interest, e.g., B cells, T cells, T cell lines, and T cell clones. For example, spleen cells from immunized mice can be isolated and the capacity of cytotoxic T lymphocytes to lyse autologous target cells that contain a self replicating RNA molecule that encodes the immunogen. In addition, T helper cell differentiation can be analyzed by measuring proliferation or production of THl (IL-2 and IFN-gamma) and /orTH2 (IL-4 and IL-5) cytokines by ELISA or directly in CD4+ T cells by cytoplasmic cytokine staining and flow cytometry.

[0085] Self-replicating RNA molecules that encode an antigen can also be tested for ability to induce humoral immune responses, as evidenced, for example, by induction of B cell production of antibodies specific for an antigen of interest. These assays can be conducted using, for example, peripheral B lymphocytes from immunized individuals. Such assay methods are known to those of skill in the art. Other assays that can be used to characterize the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can involve detecting expression of the encoded antigen by the target cells. For example, FACS can be used to detect antigen expression on the cell surface or intracellularly. Another advantage of FACS selection is that one can sort for different levels of expression; sometimes-lower expression may be desired. Other suitable method for identifying cells which express a particular antigen involve panning using monoclonal antibodies on a plate or capture using magnetic beads coated with monoclonal antibodies.

DELIVERY OF SELF-REPLICATING RNA MOLECULES

[0086] The self-replicating RNA of the invention are suitable for delivery in a variety of modalities, such as naked RNA delivery or in combination with lipids, polymers or other compounds that facilitate entry into the cells. Self-replicating RNA molecules of the present invention can be introduced into target cells or subjects using any suitable technique, e.g., by direct injection, microinjection, electroporation, lipofection, biolystics, and the like. The self-replicating RNA molecule may also be introduced into cells by way of receptor-mediated endocytosis. See e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,090,619; Wu and Wu, J. Biol. Chem., 263:14621 (1988); and Curiel et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 88:8850 (1991). For example, U.S. Pat. No.

6,083,741 discloses introducing an exogenous nucleic acid into mammalian cells by associating the nucleic acid to a polycation moiety (e.g., poly-L-lysine having 3-100 lysine residues), which is itself coupled to an integrin receptor-binding moiety (e.g., a cyclic peptide having the sequence Arg-Gly-Asp).

[0087] The self-replicating RNA molecule of the present invention can be delivered into cells via amphiphiles. See e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,071,890. Typically, a nucleic acid molecule may form a complex with the cationic amphiphile. Mammalian cells contacted with the complex can readily take it up.

[0088] The self-replicating RNA can be delivered as naked RNA (e.g. merely as an aqueous solution of RNA) but, to enhance entry into cells and also subsequent intercellular effects, the self-replicating RNA is preferably administered in combination with a delivery system, such as a particulate or emulsion delivery system. A large number of delivery systems are well known to those of skill in the art. Such delivery systems include, for example liposome-based delivery (Debs and Zhu (1993) WO 93/24640; Mannino and Gould-Fogerite (1988) BioTechniques 6(7): 682-691; Rose U.S. Pat. No. 5,279,833; Brigham (1991) WO 91/06309; and Feigner et al (1987) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84: 7413-7414), as well as use of viral vectors {e.g., adenoviral (see, e.g., Berns et al (1995) Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 772: 95-104; AIi et al (1994) Gene Ther. 1 : 367-384; and Haddada et al. (1995) Curr. Top. Microbiol. Immunol. 199 (Pt 3): 297-306 for review), papillomaviral, retroviral (see, e.g., Buchscher et al. (1992) J. Virol. 66(5) 2731-2739; Johann et al. (1992) J. Virol. 66 (5): 1635-1640 (1992); Sommerfelt et al, (1990) Virol. 176:58-59; Wilson et al. (1989) J. Virol. 63:2374-2378; Miller et al, J. Virol. 65:2220-2224 (1991); Wong-Staal et al, PCT/US94/05700, and Rosenburg and Fauci (1993) in

Fundamental Immunology, Third Edition Paul (ed) Raven Press, Ltd., New York and the references therein, and Yu et al, Gene Therapy (1994) supra.), and adeno-associated viral vectors (see, West et al (1987) Virology 160:38-47; Carter et al (1989) U.S. Pat. No. 4,797,368; Carter et al WO 93/24641 (1993); Kotin (1994) Human Gene Therapy 5:793-801; Muzyczka (1994) J. Clin. Invst. 94:1351 and Samulski (supra) for an overview of AAV vectors; see also, Lebkowski, U.S. Pat. No. 5,173,414; Tratschin et al (1985) MoI. Cell. Biol. 5(11):3251-3260; Tratschin, et al (1984) MoI. Cell. Biol, 4:2072-2081; Hermonat and Muzyczka (1984) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 81 :6466-6470; McLaughlin et al (1988) and Samulski et al (1989) J. Virol, 63:03822-3828), and the like.

[0089] Three particularly useful delivery systems are (i) liposomes (ii) non-toxic and biodegradable polymer microparticles (iii) cationic submicron oil-in-water emulsions.

Liposomes

[0090] Various amphiphilic lipids can form bilayers in an aqueous environment to encapsulate a RNA-containing aqueous core as a liposome. These lipids can have an anionic,

cationic or zwitterionic hydrophilic head group. Formation of liposomes from anionic phospholipids dates back to the 1960s, and cationic liposome-forming lipids have been studied since the 1990s. Some phospholipids are anionic whereas other are zwitterionic. Suitable classes of phospholipid include, but are not limited to, phosphatidylethanolamines,

phosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylserines, and phosphatidylglycerols, and some useful phospholipids are listed in Table 12. Useful cationic lipids include, but are not limited to, dioleoyl trimethylammonium propane (DOTAP), l,2-distearyloxy-N,N-dimethyl-3-aminopropane (DSDMA), l,2-dioleyloxy-N,Ndimethyl-3-aminopropane (DODMA), 1,2-dilinoleyloxy-N,N-dimethyl-3-aminopropane (DLinDMA), 1 ,2-dilinolenyloxy-N,N-dimethyl-3-aminopropane (DLenDMA). Zwitterionic lipids include, but are not limited to, acyl zwitterionic lipids and ether zwitterionic lipids. Examples of useful zwitterionic lipids are DPPC, DOPC and dodecylphosphocholine. The lipids can be saturated or unsaturated.

[0091] Liposomes can be formed from a single lipid or from a mixture of lipids. A mixture may comprise (i) a mixture of anionic lipids (ii) a mixture of cationic lipids (iii) a mixture of zwitterionic lipids (iv) a mixture of anionic lipids and cationic lipids (v) a mixture of anionic lipids and zwitterionic lipids (vi) a mixture of zwitterionic lipids and cationic lipids or (vii) a mixture of anionic lipids, cationic lipids and zwitterionic lipids. Similarly, a mixture may comprise both saturated and unsaturated lipids. For example, a mixture may comprise DSPC (zwitterionic, saturated), DlinDMA (cationic, unsaturated), and/or DMPG (anionic, saturated). Where a mixture of lipids is used, not all of the component lipids in the mixture need to be amphiphilic e.g. one or more amphiphilic lipids can be mixed with cholesterol.

[0092] The hydrophilic portion of a lipid can be PEGylated (i.e. modified by covalent attachment of a polyethylene glycol). This modification can increase stability and prevent non-specific adsorption of the liposomes. For instance, lipids can be conjugated to PEG using techniques such as those disclosed in Heyes et al. (2005) J Controlled Release 107:276-87..

[0093] A mixture of DSPC, DlinDMA, PEG-DMPG and cholesterol is used in the examples. A separate aspect of the invention is a liposome comprising DSPC, DlinDMA, PEG-DMG and cholesterol. This liposome preferably encapsulates RNA, such as a self-replicating RNA e.g. encoding an antigen.

[0094] Liposomes are usually divided into three groups: multilamellar vesicles (MLV); small unilamellar vesicles (SUV); and large unilamellar vesicles (LUV). MLVs have multiple

bilayers in each vesicle, forming several separate aqueous compartments. SUVs and LUVs have a single bilayer encapsulating an aqueous core; SUVs typically have a diameter <50nm, and LUVs have a diameter >50nm. Liposomes useful with of the invention are ideally LUVs with a diameter in the range of 50-220nm. For a composition comprising a population of LUVs with different diameters: (i) at least 80% by number should have diameters in the range of 20-220nm, (ii) the average diameter (Zav, by intensity) of the population is ideally in the range of 40-200nm, and/or (iii) the diameters should have a polydispersity index <0.2.

[0095] Techniques for preparing suitable liposomes are well known in the art e.g. see

Liposomes: Methods and Protocols, Volume 1 : Pharmaceutical Nanocarriers: Methods and Protocols, (ed. Weissig). Humana Press, 2009. ISBN 160327359X; Liposome Technology, volumes I, II & III. (ed. Gregoriadis). Informa Healthcare, 2006; and Functional Polymer Colloids and Microparticles volume 4 (Microspheres, microcapsules & liposomes), (eds.

Arshady & Guyot). Citus Books, 2002. One useful method involves mixing (i) an ethanolic solution of the lipids (ii) an aqueous solution of the nucleic acid and (iii) buffer, followed by mixing, equilibration, dilution and purification (Heyes et al. (2005) J Controlled Release 107:276-87.).

[0096] RNA is preferably encapsulated within the liposomes, and so the liposome forms a outer layer around an aqueous RNA-containing core. This encapsulation has been found to protect RNA from RNase digestion.. The liposomes can include some external RNA {e.g. on the surface of the liposomes), but at least half of the RNA (and ideally all of it) is encapsulated.

Polymeric microparticles

[0097] Various polymers can form microparticles to encapsulate or adsorb RNA. The use of a substantially non-toxic polymer means that a recipient can safely receive the particles, and the use of a biodegradable polymer means that the particles can be metabolised after delivery to avoid long-term persistence. Useful polymers are also sterilisable, to assist in preparing pharmaceutical grade formulations.

[0098] Suitable non-toxic and biodegradable polymers include, but are not limited to, poly(α-hydroxy acids), polyhydroxy butyric acids, polylactones (including polycaprolactones), polydioxanones, polyvalerolactone, polyorthoesters, polyanhydrides, polycyanoacrylates,

tyrosine-derived polycarbonates, polyvinyl-pyrrolidinones or polyester-amides, and combinations thereof.

[0099] In some embodiments, the microparticles are formed from poly(α-hydroxy acids), such as a poly(lactides) ("PLA"), copolymers of lactide and glycolide such as a poly(D,L-lactide-co-glycolide) ("PLG"), and copolymers of D,L-lactide and caprolactone. Useful PLG polymers include those having a lactide/glycolide molar ratio ranging, for example, from 20:80 to 80:20 e.g. 25:75, 40:60, 45:55, 55:45, 60:40, 75:25. Useful PLG polymers include those having a molecular weight between, for example, 5,000-200,000 Da e.g. between 10,000-100,000, 20,000-70,000, 40,000-50,000 Da.

[00100] The microparticles ideally have a diameter in the range of 0.02 μm to 8μm. For a composition comprising a population of microparticles with different diameters at least 80% by number should have diameters in the range of 0.03-7μm.

[00101] Techniques for preparing suitable microparticles are well known in the art e.g. see

Functional Polymer Colloids and Microparticles volume 4 (Microspheres, microcapsules & liposomes), (eds. Arshady & Guyot). Citus Books, 2002; Polymers in Drug Delivery, (eds.

Uchegbu & Schatzlein). CRC Press, 2006. (in particular chapter 7) and Microparticulate Systems or the Delivery of Proteins and Vaccines, (eds. Cohen & Bernstein). CRC Press, 1996. To facilitate adsorption of RNA, a microparticle may include a cationic surfactant and/or lipid e.g. as disclosed in O'Hagan et al. (2001) J Virologylδ: 9037-9043; and Singh et al. (2003)

Pharmaceutical Research 20: 247-251. An alternative way of making polymeric microparticles is by molding and curing e.g. as disclosed in WO2009/132206.

[00102] Microparticles of the invention can have a zeta potential of between 40-100 mV.

[00103] RNA can be adsorbed to the microparticles, and adsorption is facilitated by including cationic materials (e.g. cationic lipids) in the microparticle.

Oil-in- water cationic emulsions

[00104] Oil-in- water emulsions are known for adjuvanting influenza vaccines e.g. the

MF59™ adjuvant in the FLUAD™ product, and the AS03 adjuvant in the PREPANDRIX™ product. RNA delivery according to the present invention can utilise an oil-in-water emulsion, provided that the emulsion includes one or more cationic molecules. For instance, a cationic lipid can be included in the emulsion to provide a positive droplet surface to which negatively-charged RNA can attach.

[00105] The emulsion comprises one or more oils. Suitable oil(s) include those from, for example, an animal (such as fish) or a vegetable source. The oil is ideally biodegradable

(metabolisable) and biocompatible. Sources for vegetable oils include nuts, seeds and grains. Peanut oil, soybean oil, coconut oil, and olive oil, the most commonly available, exemplify the nut oils. Jojoba oil can be used e.g. obtained from the jojoba bean. Seed oils include safflower oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil and the like. In the grain group, corn oil is the most readily available, but the oil of other cereal grains such as wheat, oats, rye, rice, teff, triticale and the like may also be used. 6-10 carbon fatty acid esters of glycerol and 1,2-propanediol, while not occurring naturally in seed oils, may be prepared by hydrolysis, separation and esterification of the appropriate materials starting from the nut and seed oils. Fats and oils from mammalian milk are metabolizable and so may be used. The procedures for separation, purification, saponification and other means necessary for obtaining pure oils from animal sources are well known in the art.

[00106] Most fish contain metabolizable oils which may be readily recovered. For example, cod liver oil, shark liver oils, and whale oil such as spermaceti exemplify several of the fish oils which may be used herein. A number of branched chain oils are synthesized

biochemically in 5-carbon isoprene units and are generally referred to as terpenoids. Squalane, the saturated analog to squalene, can also be used. Fish oils, including squalene and squalane, are readily available from commercial sources or may be obtained by methods known in the art.

[00107] Other useful oils are the tocopherols, particularly in combination with squalene.

Where the oil phase of an emulsion includes a tocopherol, any of the α, β, γ, δ, ε or ξ tocopherols can be used, but α-tocopherols are preferred. D-α-tocopherol and DL-α-tocopherol can both be used. A preferred α-tocopherol is DL-α-tocopherol. An oil combination comprising squalene and a tocopherol (e.g. DL-α-tocopherol) can be used.

[00108] Preferred emulsions comprise squalene, a shark liver oil which is a branched, unsaturated terpenoid (C30H50; [(CH3)2C[=CHCH2CH2C(CH3)]2=CHCH2-]2; 2,6,10,15,19,23-hexamethyl-2,6,10,14,18,22-tetracosahexaene; CAS RN 7683-64-9).

[00109] The oil in the emulsion may comprise a combination of oils e.g. squalene and at least one further oil.

[00110] The aqueous component of the emulsion can be plain water (e.g. w.f.i.) or can include further components e.g. solutes. For instance, it may include salts to form a buffer e.g. citrate or phosphate salts, such as sodium salts. Typical buffers include: a phosphate buffer; a Tris buffer; a borate buffer; a succinate buffer; a histidine buffer; or a citrate buffer. A buffered aqueous phase is preferred, and buffers will typically be included in the 5-2OmM range.

[00111] The emulsion also includes a cationic lipid. Preferably this lipid is a surfactant so that it can facilitate formation and stabilisation of the emulsion. Useful cationic lipids generally contains a nitrogen atom that is positively charged under physiological conditions e.g. as a tertiary or quaternary amine. This nitrogen can be in the hydrophilic head group of an

amphiphilic surfactant. Useful cationic lipids include, but are not limited to: l,2-dioleoyloxy-3-(trimethylammonio)propane (DOTAP), 3'-[N-(N',N'-Dimethylaminoethane)-carbamoyl] Cholesterol (DC Cholesterol), dimethyldioctadecyl-ammonium (DDA e.g. the bromide), l,2-Dimyristoyl-3-Trimethyl-AmmoniumPropane (DMTAP),

dipalmitoyl(C16:0)trimethyl ammonium propane (DPTAP), distearoyltrimethylammonium propane (DSTAP). Other useful cationic lipids are: benzalkonium chloride (BAK),

benzethonium chloride, cetramide (which contains tetradecyltrimethylammonium bromide and possibly small amounts of dedecyltrimethylammonium bromide and hexadecyltrimethyl ammonium bromide), cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), cetyl trimethylammonium chloride (CTAC), N,N',N'-polyoxyethylene (10)-N-tallow-l,3 -diaminopropane,

dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide, hexadecyltrimethyl-ammonium bromide, mixed alkyl-trimethyl-ammonium bromide, benzyldimethyldodecylammonium chloride,

benzyldimethylhexadecyl-ammonium chloride, benzyltrimethylammonium methoxide, cetyldimethylethylammonium bromide, dimethyldioctadecyl ammonium bromide (DDAB), methylbenzethonium chloride, decamethonium chloride, methyl mixed trialkyl ammonium chloride, methyl trioctylammonium chloride), N,N-dimethyl-N-[2 (2-methyl-4-(1,1,3, 3tetramethylbutyl)- phenoxy]-ethoxy)ethyl]-benzenemetha-naminium chloride (DEBDA), dialkyldimetylammonium salts, [l-(2,3-dioleyloxy)-propyl]-N,N,N,trimethylammonium chloride, l,2-diacyl-3-(trimethylammonio) propane (acyl group=dimyristoyl, dipalmitoyl, distearoyl, dioleoyl), l,2-diacyl-3 (dimethylammonio)propane (acyl group=dimyristoyl, dipalmitoyl, distearoyl, dioleoyl), l,2-dioleoyl-3-(4'-trimethyl- ammonio)butanoyl-sn-glycerol, 1,2-dioleoyl 3-succinyl-sn-glycerol choline ester, cholesteryl (4'-trimethylammonio) butanoate), N-alkyl

pyridinium salts (e.g. cetylpyridinium bromide and cetylpyridinium chloride), N-alkylpiperidinium salts, dicationic bolaform electrolytes (C12Me6; C12BU6),

dialkylglycetylphosphorylcholine, lysolecithin, L-α dioleoylphosphatidylethanolamine, cholesterol hemisuccinate choline ester, lipopolyamines, including but not limited to

dioctadecylamidoglycylspermine (DOGS), dipalmitoyl phosphatidylethanol-amidospermine (DPPES), lipopoly-L (or D)- lysine (LPLL, LPDL), poly (L (or D)-lysine conjugated to N-glutarylphosphatidylethanolamine, didodecyl glutamate ester with pendant amino group

(CΛGluPhCnN ), ditetradecyl glutamate ester with pendant amino group (CWGIuCnN+), cationic derivatives of cholesterol, including but not limited to cholesteryl-3

β-oxysuccinamidoethylenetrimethylammonium salt, cholesteryl-3 β-oxysuccinamidoethylene-dimethylamine, cholesteryl-3 β-carboxyamidoethylenetrimethylammonium salt, and cholesteryl-3 β-carboxyamidoethylenedimethylamine. Other useful cationic lipids are described in US 2008/0085870 and US 2008/0057080, which are incorporated herein by reference.

[00112] The cationic lipid is preferably biodegradable (metabolisable) and biocompatible.

[00113] In addition to the oil and cationic lipid, an emulsion can include a non-ionic surfactant and/or a zwitterionic surfactant. Such surfactants include, but are not limited to: the polyoxyethylene sorbitan esters surfactants (commonly referred to as the Tweens), especially polysorbate 20 and polysorbate 80; copolymers of ethylene oxide (EO), propylene oxide (PO), and/or butylene oxide (BO), sold under the DOWF AX™ tradename, such as linear EO/PO block copolymers; octoxynols, which can vary in the number of repeating ethoxy (oxy-l,2-ethanediyl) groups, with octoxynol-9 (Triton X-IOO, or t-octylphenoxypolyethoxyethanol) being of particular interest; (octylphenoxy)polyethoxyethanol (IGEPAL CA-630/NP-40); phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine (lecithin); polyoxyethylene fatty ethers derived from lauryl, cetyl, stearyl and oleyl alcohols (known as Brij surfactants), such as triethyleneglycol monolauryl ether (Brij 30); polyoxyethylene-9-lauryl ether; and sorbitan esters (commonly known as the Spans), such as sorbitan trioleate (Span 85) and sorbitan monolaurate. Preferred surfactants for including in the emulsion are polysorbate 80 (T ween 80; polyoxyethylene sorbitan monooleate), Span 85 (sorbitan trioleate), lecithin and Triton X-100.

[00114] Mixtures of these surfactants can be included in the emulsion e.g. Tween 80/Span

85 mixtures, or Tween 80/Triton-X100 mixtures. A combination of a polyoxyethylene sorbitan ester such as polyoxyethylene sorbitan monooleate (Tween 80) and an octoxynol such as

t-octylphenoxy-polyethoxyethanol (Triton X-IOO) is also suitable. Another useful combination comprises laureth 9 plus a polyoxyethylene sorbitan ester and/or an octoxynol. Useful mixtures can comprise a surfactant with a HLB value in the range of 10-20 (e.g. polysorbate 80, with a HLB of 15.0) and a surfactant with a HLB value in the range of 1-10 (e.g. sorbitan trioleate, with a HLB of 1.8).

[00115] Preferred amounts of oil (% by volume) in the final emulsion are between 2-20% e.g. 5-15%, 6-14%, 7-13%, 8-12%. A squalene content of about 4-6% or about 9-11% is particularly useful.

[00116] Preferred amounts of surfactants (% by weight) in the final emulsion are between

0.001% and 8%. For example: polyoxyethylene sorbitan esters (such as polysorbate 80) 0.2 to 4%, in particular between 0.4-0.6%, between 0.45-0.55%, about 0.5% or between 1.5-2%, between 1.8-2.2%, between 1.9-2.1%, about 2%, or 0.85-0.95%, or about 1%; sorbitan esters (such as sorbitan trioleate) 0.02 to 2%, in particular about 0.5% or about 1%; octyl- or nonylphenoxy polyoxyethanols (such as Triton X-100) 0.001 to 0.1%, in particular 0.005 to 0.02%; polyoxyethylene ethers (such as laureth 9) 0.1 to 8%, preferably 0.1 to 10% and in particular 0.1 to 1% or about 0.5%.

[00117] The absolute amounts of oil and surfactant, and their ratio, can be varied within wide limits while still forming an emulsion. A skilled person can easily vary the relative proportions of the components to obtain a desired emulsion, but a weight ratio of between 4:1 and 5:1 for oil and surfactant is typical (excess oil).

[00118] An important parameter for ensuring immunostimulatory activity of an emulsion, particularly in large animals, is the oil droplet size (diameter). The most effective emulsions have a droplet size in the submicron range. Suitably the droplet sizes will be in the range 50-750nm. Most usefully the average droplet size is less than 250nm e.g. less than 200nm, less than 150nm. The average droplet size is usefully in the range of 80-180nm. Ideally, at least 80% (by number) of the emulsion's oil droplets are less than 250 nm in diameter, and preferably at least 90%. Apparatuses for determining the average droplet size in an emulsion, and the size distribution, are commercially available. These these typically use the techniques of dynamic light scattering and/or single -particle optical sensing e.g. the Accusizer™ and Nicomp™ series of instruments available from Particle Sizing Systems (Santa Barbara, USA), or the Zetasizer™ instruments

from Malvern Instruments (UK), or the Particle Size Distribution Analyzer instruments from

Horiba (Kyoto, Japan).

[00119] Ideally, the distribution of droplet sizes (by number) has only one maximum i.e. there is a single population of droplets distributed around an average (mode), rather than having two maxima. Preferred emulsions have a polydispersity of <0.4 e.g. 0.3, 0.2, or less.

[00120] Suitable emulsions with submicron droplets and a narrow size distribution can be obtained by the use of micro fluidisation. This technique reduces average oil droplet size by propelling streams of input components through geometrically fixed channels at high pressure and high velocity. These streams contact channel walls, chamber walls and each other. The results shear, impact and cavitation forces cause a reduction in droplet size. Repeated steps of micro fluidisation can be performed until an emulsion with a desired droplet size average and distribution are achieved.

[00121] As an alternative to micro fluidisation, thermal methods can be used to cause phase inversion. These methods can also provide a submicron emulsion with a tight particle size distribution.

[00122] Preferred emulsions can be filter sterilised i.e. their droplets can pass through a

220nm filter. As well as providing a sterilisation, this procedure also removes any large droplets in the emulsion.

[00123] In certain embodiments, the cationic lipid in the emulsion is DOTAP. The cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml DOTAP.

For example, the cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise DOTAP at from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 0.6 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 0.7 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 0.8 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 0.9 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.0 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.1 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.2 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.3 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.4 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.5 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.6 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 1.7 mg/ml to about 25 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 24 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 22 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 20 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 18 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 15 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 12 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 10 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 2 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 1.9 mg/ml, from

about 0.5 mg/ml to about 1.8 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 1.7 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 1.6 mg/ml, from about 0.6 mg/ml to about 1.6 mg/ml, from about 0.7 mg/ml to about 1.6 mg/ml, from about 0.8 mg/ml to about 1.6 mg/ml, about 0.5 mg/ml, about 0.6 mg/ml, about 0.7 mg/ml, about 0.8 mg/ml, about 0.9 mg/ml, about 1.0 mg/ml, about 1.1 mg/ml, about 1.2 mg/ml, about 1.3 mg/ml, about 1.4 mg/ml, about 1.5 mg/ml, about 1.6 mg/ml, about 12 mg/ml, about 18 mg/ml, about 20 mg/ml, about 21.8 mg/ml, about 24 mg/ml, ete. In an exemplary embodiment, the cationic oil-in- water emulsion comprises from about 0.8 mg/ml to about 1.6 mg/ml DOTAP, such as 0.8 mg/ml, 1.2 mg/ml, 1.4 mg/ml or 1.6 mg/ml.

[00124] In certain embodiments, the cationic lipid is DC Cholesterol. The cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise DC Cholesterol at from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml DC Cholesterol. For example, the cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise DC Cholesterol from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.2 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.3 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.4 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.62 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 1 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 1.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 2 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 2.46 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 3 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 3.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 4 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 4.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 4.92 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 4.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 4 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 3.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 3 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 2.46 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 2 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 1.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 1 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 0.62 mg/ml, about 0.15 mg/ml, about 0.3 mg/ml, about 0.6 mg/ml, about 0.62 mg/ml, about 0.9 mg/ml, about 1.2 mg/ml, about 2.46 mg/ml, about 4.92 mg/ml, etc. In an exemplary embodiment, the cationic oil-in-water emulsion comprises from about 0.62 mg/ml to about 4.92 mg/ml DC Cholesterol, such as 2.46 mg/ml.

[00125] In certain embodiments, the cationic lipid is DDA. The cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml DDA. For example, the cationic oil-in-water emulsion may comprise DDA at from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 4.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 4 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 3.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 3 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 2.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 2 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 1.5 mg/ml, from about 0.1 mg/ml to about 1.45 mg/ml, from about 0.2 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.3 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.4 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.6 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.73 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.8 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 0.9 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 1.0 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 1.2 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 1.45 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 2 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 2.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 3 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 3.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 4 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, from about 4.5 mg/ml to about 5 mg/ml, about 1.2 mg/ml, about 1.45 mg/ml, etc. Alternatively, the cationic oil-in- water emulsion may comprise DDA at about 20 mg/ml, about 21 mg/ml, about 21.5 mg/ml, about 21.6 mg/ml, about 25 mg/ml. In an exemplary embodiment, the cationic oil-in-water emulsion comprises from about 0.73 mg/ml to about 1.45 mg/ml DDA, such as 1.45 mg/ml.

[00126] Catheters or like devices may be used to deliver the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention, as naked RNA or in combination with a delivery system, into a target organ or tissue. Suitable catheters are disclosed in, e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,186,745; 5,397,307; 5,547,472; 5,674,192; and 6,129,705, all of which are incorporated herein by reference.

[00127] The present invention includes the use of suitable delivery systems, such as liposomes, polymer microparticles or submicron emulsion microparticles with encapsulated or adsorbed self-replicating RNA, to deliver a self-replicating RNA molecule, for example, to elicit an immune response alone, or in combination with another macromolecule. The invention includes liposomes, microparticles and submicron emulsions with adsorbed and/or encapsulated self-replicating RNA molecules, and combinations thereof.

[00128] As demonstrated further in the Examples, the self-replicating RNA molecules associated with lipoplexes, liposomes and submicron emulsion microparticles can be effectively delivered to the host cell, and can induce an immune response to the protein encoded by the self-replicating RNA.

ANTIGENS

[00129] The present invention is also directed to a self-replicating RNA molecule which encodes an antigen (e.g. a pathogen antigen) that can induce a CTL immune response and/or a humoral immune response, and may further induce cytokine production.

[00130] Suitable antigens include proteins and peptides from a pathogen such as a virus, bacteria, fungus, protozoan, plant or from a tumor. Viral antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include, but are not limited to, proteins and peptides from a Orthomyxoviruses, such as Influenza A, B and C; Paramyxoviridae viruses, such as

Pneumoviruses (RSV), Paramyxoviruses (PIV), Metapneumovirus and Morbilliviruses (e.g., measles); Pneumoviruses, such as Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Bovine respiratory syncytial virus, Pneumonia virus of mice, and Turkey rhinotracheitis virus; Paramyxoviruses, such as Parainfluenza virus types 1 - 4 (PIV), Mumps, Sendai viruses, Simian virus 5, Bovine parainfluenza virus, Nipahvirus, Henipavirus and Newcastle disease virus; Poxviridae, such as Variola vera, including but not limited to, Variola major and Variola minor,

Metapneumoviruses, such as human metapneumovirus (hMPV) and avian metapneumoviruses (aMPV); Morbilliviruses, such as Measles; Picornaviruses, such as Enteroviruses, Rhinoviruses, Heparnavirus, Parechovirus, Cardioviruses and Aphthoviruses; Enteroviruseses, such as

Poliovirus types 1, 2 or 3, Coxsackie A virus types 1 to 22 and 24, Coxsackie B virus types 1 to 6, Echovirus (ECHO) virus) types 1 to 9, 11 to 27 and 29 to 34 and Enterovirus 68 to 71, Bunyaviruses, such as California encephalitis virus; a Phlebovirus, such as Rift Valley Fever virus; a Nairovirus, such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus; Heparnaviruses, such as, Hepatitis A virus (HAV); Togaviruses, such as a Rubivirus, an Alphavirus, or an Arterivirus; Flaviviruses, such as Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus, Dengue (types 1, 2, 3 or 4) virus, Yellow Fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Kyasanur Forest Virus, West Nile encephalitis virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, Russian spring-summer encephalitis virus, Powassan encephalitis virus; Pestiviruses, such as Bovine viral diarrhea (BVDV), Classical swine fever (CSFV) or Border disease (BDV); Hepadnaviruses, such as Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus; Rhabdoviruses, such as a Lyssavirus (Rabies virus) and Vesiculovirus (VSV), Caliciviridae, such as Norwalk virus, and Norwalk-like Viruses, such as Hawaii Virus and Snow Mountain Virus; Coronaviruses, such as SARS, Human respiratory coronavirus, Avian infectious bronchitis (IBV), Mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), and Porcine transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV); Retroviruses such as an Oncovirus, a Lentivirus or a Spumavirus; Reoviruses, as an

Orthoreo virus, a Rotavirus, an Orbivirus, or a Coltivirus; Parvoviruses, such as Parvovirus B 19; Delta hepatitis virus (HDV); Hepatitis E virus (HEV); Human Herpesviruses, such as, by way Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV), Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV6), Human Herpesvirus 7 (HHV7), and Human Herpesvirus 8 (HHV8); Papovaviruses, such as Papillomaviruses and Polyomaviruses, Adenoviruess and Arenaviruses.

[00131] Bacterial antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include, but are not limited to, proteins and peptides from Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Moraxella catarrhalis, Bordetella pertussis, Burkholderia sp. {e.g., Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia cepacia),

Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Clostridium tetani (Tetanus), Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinums, Cornynebacterium diphtheriae (Diphtheria), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Legionella pneumophila, Coxiella burnetii, Brucella sp. (e.g., B. abortus, B. canis, B. melitensis, B. neotomae, B. ovis, B. suis and B. pinnipediaeJFrancisella sp. (e.g., F. novicida, F. philomiragia and F. tularensis), Streptococcus agalactiae, Neiserria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Treponema pallidum (Syphilis), Haemophilus ducreyi, Enter ococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Yersinia

enter ocolitica, E. coli, Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (plague), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Rickettsia, Listeria , Chlamydia pneumoniae, Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella typhi (typhoid fever), Borrelia burgdorfer, Porphyromonas sp, Klebsiella sp.

[00132] Fungal antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include, but are not limited to, proteins and peptides from Dermatophytres, including:

Epidermophyton floccusum, Microsporum audouini, Microsporum canis, Microsporum distortum, Microsporum equinum, Microsporum gypsum, Microsporum nanum, Trichophyton concentricum, Trichophyton equinum, Trichophyton gallinae, Trichophyton gypseum,

Trichophyton megnini, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Trichophyton quinckeanum, Trichophyton rubrum, Trichophyton schoenleini, Trichophyton tonsurans, Trichophyton verrucosum, T verrucosum var. album, var. discoides, var. ochraceum, Trichophyton violaceum, and/or

Trichophyton faviforme; or from Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus nidulans, Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus sydowi, Aspergillus flavatus, Aspergillus glaucus, Blastoschizomyces capitatus, Candida albicans, Candida enolase, Candida tropicalis,

Candida glabrata, Candida krusei, Candida parapsilosis, Candida stellatoidea, Candida kusei, Candida parakwsei, Candida lusitaniae, Candida pseudotropicalis, Candida guilliermondi, Cladosporium carrionii, Coccidioides immitis, Blastomyces dermatidis, Cryptococcus neoformans, Geotrichum clavatum, Histoplasma capsulatum, Klebsiella pneumoniae,

Microsporidia, Encephalitozoon spp., Septata intestinalis and Enterocytozoon bieneusi; the less common are Brachiola spp, Microsporidium spp., Nosema spp., Pleistophora spp.,

Trachipleistophora spp., Vittaforma spp Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, Pneumocystis carinii, Pythiumn insidiosum, Pityrosporum ovale, Sacharomyces cerevisae, Saccharomyces boulardii, Saccharomyces pombe, Scedosporium apiosperum, Sporothrix schenckii, Trichosporon beigelii, Toxoplasma gondii, Penicillium marneffei, Malassezia spp., Fonsecaea spp., Wangiella spp., Sporothrix spp., Basidiobolus spp., Conidiobolus spp., Rhizopus spp, Mucor spp, Absidia spp, Mortierella spp, Cunninghamella spp, Saksenaea spp., Alternaria spp, Curvularia spp,

Helminthosporium spp, Fusarium spp, Aspergillus spp, Penicillium spp, Monolinia spp,

Rhizoctonia spp, Paecilomyces spp, Pithomyces spp, and Cladosporium spp.

[00133] Protazoan antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include, but are not limited to, proteins and peptides from Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lambli, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora cayatanensis and Toxoplasma. Plant antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecule include, but are not limited to, proteins and peptides from Ricinus communis

[00134] Suitable antigens include proteins and peptides from a virus such as, for example, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), influenza virus (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parvovorus, norovirus, human papilloma virus (HPV), rhinovirus, yellow fever virus and rabies virus. Preferably, the antigenic substance is selected from the group consisting of HSV glycoprotein gD, HIV glycoprotein gpl20, HIV glycoprotein gp 40, HIV p55 gag, and polypeptides from the pol and tat regions. In other preferred embodiments of the invention, the antigen is a protein or peptide derived from a bacterium such as, for example, Helicobacter pylori, Haemophilus influenza, Vibrio cholerae (cholera), C. diphtheriae (diphtheria), C. tetani (tetanus), Neisseria meningitidis, pertussis, and the like. In other preferred embodiments of the invention, the antigenic substance is from a parasite such as, for example, a malaria parasite (e.g., Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae).

[00135] HIV antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are described in U.S. application Ser. No. 490,858, filed Mar. 9, 1990, and published European application number 181150 (May 14, 1986), as well as U.S. application Ser. Nos. 60/168,471; 09/475,515; 09/475,504; and 09/610,313, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

[00136] Cytomegalovirus antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,689,225, U.S. application Ser. No. 367,363, filed Jun. 16, 1989 and PCT Publication WO 89/07143, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

[00137] Hepatitis C antigens that can be encoded by the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention are described in PCT/US88/04125, published European application number 318216 (May 31, 1989), published Japanese application number 1-500565 filed Nov. 18, 1988, Canadian application 583,561, and EPO 388,232, disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. A different set of HCV antigens is described in European patent application 90/302866.0, filed Mar. 16, 1990, and U.S. application Ser. No. 456,637, filed Dec. 21, 1989, and PCT/US90/01348, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

[00138] In certain embodiments, a tumor immunogen or antigen, or cancer immunogen or antigen, is used in the invention. In certain embodiments, the tumor immunogens and antigens are peptide-containing tumor antigens, such as a polypeptide tumor antigen or glycoprotein tumor antigens.

[00139] Tumor antigens appropriate for the use herein encompass a wide variety of molecules, such as (a) polypeptide-containing tumor antigens, including polypeptides (which can range, for example, from 8-20 amino acids in length, although lengths outside this range are also common), lipopolypeptides and glycoproteins.

[00140] In certain embodiments, tumor antigen are, for example, (a) full length molecules associated with cancer cells, (b) homo logs and modified forms of the same, including molecules with deleted, added and/or substituted portions, and (c) fragments of the same. Tumor immunogens include, for example, class I-restricted antigens recognized by CD 8+ lymphocytes or class II-restricted antigens recognized by CD4+ lymphocytes.

[00141] In certain embodiments, tumor antigens include, but are not limited to, (a) cancer-testis antigens such as NY-ESO-I, SSX2, SCPl as well as RAGE, BAGE, GAGE and MAGE family polypeptides, for example, GAGE-I, GAGE-2, MAGE-I, MAGE-2, MAGE-3, MAGE-4, MAGE-5, MAGE-6, and MAGE- 12 (which can be used, for example, to address melanoma, lung, head and neck, NSCLC, breast, gastrointestinal, and bladder tumors), (b) mutated antigens, for example, p53 (associated with various solid tumors, e.g., colorectal, lung, head and neck cancer), p21/Ras (associated with, e.g., melanoma, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer), CDK4 (associated with, e.g., melanoma), MUMl (associated with, e.g., melanoma), caspase-8 (associated with, e.g., head and neck cancer), CIA 0205 (associated with, e.g., bladder cancer), HLA-A2-R1701, beta catenin (associated with, e.g., melanoma), TCR (associated with, e.g., T-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma), BCR-abl (associated with, e.g., chronic myelogenous leukemia), triosephosphate isomerase, KIA 0205, CDC-27, and LDLR-FUT, (c) over-expressed antigens, for example, Galectin 4 (associated with, e.g., colorectal cancer), Galectin 9 (associated with, e.g., Hodgkin's disease), proteinase 3 (associated with, e.g., chronic myelogenous leukemia), WT 1 (associated with, e.g., various leukemias), carbonic anhydrase (associated with, e.g., renal cancer), aldolase A (associated with, e.g., lung cancer), PRAME (associated with, e.g., melanoma), HER-2/neu (associated with, e.g., breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer), alpha-fetoprotein (associated with, e.g., hepatoma), KSA (associated with, e.g., colorectal cancer), gastrin (associated with, e.g., pancreatic and gastric cancer), telomerase catalytic protein, MUC-I (associated with, e.g., breast and ovarian cancer), G-250 (associated with, e.g., renal cell carcinoma), p53 (associated with, e.g., breast, colon cancer), and carcinoembryonic antigen (associated with, e.g., breast cancer, lung cancer, and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract such as colorectal cancer), (d) shared antigens, for example, melanoma-melanocyte differentiation antigens such as MART-1/Melan A, gplOO, MClR, melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor, tyrosinase, tyrosinase related protein- 1 /TRPl and tyrosinase related protein-2/TRP2 (associated with, e.g., melanoma), (e) prostate associated antigens such as PAP, PSA, PSMA, PSH-Pl, PSM-Pl, PSM-P2, associated with e.g., prostate cancer, (f) immunoglobulin idiotypes

(associated with myeloma and B cell lymphomas, for example).

[00142] In certain embodiments, tumor antigens include, but are not limited to, pi 5,

Hom/Mel-40, H-Ras, E2A-PRL, H4-RET, IGH-IGK, MYL-RAR, Epstein Barr virus antigens, EBNA, human papillomavirus (HPV) antigens, including E6 and E7, hepatitis B and C virus

antigens, human T-cell lymphotropic virus antigens, TSP-180, pl85erbB2, pl80erbB-3, c-met, mn-23Hl, TAG-72-4, CA 19-9, CA 72-4, CAM 17.1, NuMa, K-ras, pl6, TAGE, PSCA, CT7, 43-9F, 5T4, 791 Tgp72, beta-HCG, BCA225, BTAA, CA 125, CA 15-3 (CA 27.29\BCAA), CA 195, CA 242, CA-50, CAM43, CD68\KP1, CO-029, FGF-5, Ga733 (EpCAM), HTgp-175, M344, MA-50, MG7-Ag, M0V18, NB/70K, NY-CO-I, RCASl, SDCCAG16, TA-90 (Mac-2 binding protein\cyclophilin C-associated protein), TAAL6, TAG72, TLP, TPS, and the like.

PHARMACEUTICAL COMPOSITIONS

[00143] The invention relates to pharmaceutical compositions comprising a self-replicating RNA molecule that contains a modified nucleotide, which typically include a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier and a suitable delivery system as described herein, such as liposomes, nanoemulsions, PLG micro- and nanoparticles, lipoplexes, chitosan micro- and nanoparticles and other polyplexes. If desired other pharmaceutically acceptable components can be included, such as excipients and adjuvants. These compositions can be used as anti-viral vaccines.

[00144] Pharmaceutically acceptable carriers are determined in part by the particular composition being administered, as well as by the particular method used to administer the composition. Accordingly, there is a wide variety of suitable formulations of pharmaceutical compositions of the present invention. A variety of aqueous carriers can be used. Suitable pharmaceutically acceptable carriers for use in the pharmaceutical compositions include plain water (e.g. w.f.i.) or a buffer e.g. a phosphate buffer, a Tris buffer, a borate buffer, a succinate buffer, a histidine buffer, or a citrate buffer. Buffer salts will typically be included in the 5-2OmM range.

[00145] A pharmaceutical composition of the invention may include one or more small molecule immunopotentiators. For example, the composition may include a TLR2 agonist such as Pam3CSK4, a lipopeptides (i.e., compounds comprising one or more fatty acid residues and two or more amino acid residues) as disclosed in US 4,666,886 , or LP40 (Akdis et al. (2003) Eur. J. Immunology, 33: 2717-2726), a TLR4 agonist (e.g. an aminoalkyl glucosaminide phosphate, such as E6020), a TLR7 agonist such as imiquimod, or a benzonaphthyridine compound as disclosed in WO 2009/111337, a TLR8 agonist (e.g. resiquimod) and/or a TLR9 agonist (e.g. IC31). Any such agonist ideally has a molecular weight of <2000Da. Where a RNA

is encapsulated, in some embodiments such agonist(s) are also encapsulated with the RNA, but in other embodiments they are unencapsulated. Where a RNA is adsorbed to a particle, in some embodiments such agonist(s) are also adsorbed with the RNA, but in other embodiments they are unadsorbed.

[00146] The pharmaceutical compositions are preferably sterile, and may be sterilized by conventional sterilization techniques.

[00147] The compositions may contain pharmaceutically acceptable auxiliary substances as required to approximate physiological conditions such as pH adjusting and buffering agents, and tonicity adjusting agents and the like, for example, sodium acetate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium lactate and the like.

[00148] Preferably, the pharmaceutical compositions of the invention may have a pH between 5.0 and 9.5, e.g. between 6.0 and 8.0.

[00149] Pharmaceutical compositions of the invention may include sodium salts (e.g. sodium chloride) to give tonicity. A concentration of 10+2 mg/ml NaCl is typical e.g. about 9 mg/ml.

[00150] Pharmaceutical compositions of the invention may have an osmolality of between

200 mOsm/kg and 400 mθsm/kg, e.g. between 240-360 mθsm/kg, or between 290-310 mθsm/kg.

[00151] Pharmaceutical compositions of the invention may include one or more preservatives, such as thiomersal or 2-phenoxyethanol. Mercury-free compositions are preferred, and preservative-free vaccines can be prepared.

[00152] Pharmaceutical compositions of the invention are preferably non-pyrogenic e.g. containing <1 EU (endotoxin unit, a standard measure) per dose, and preferably <0.1 EU per dose. Pharmaceutical compositions of the invention are preferably gluten free.

[00153] The concentration of self-replicating RNA in the pharmaceutical compositions can vary, and will be selected based on fluid volumes, viscosities, body weight and other considerations in accordance with the particular mode of administration selected and the intended recipient's needs. However, the pharmaceutical compositions are formulated to proved an effective amount of self-replicating RNA, such as an amount, either in a single dose or as part of a series, that is effective for treatment or prevention. This amount varies depending upon the health and physical condition of the individual to be treated, age, the taxonomic group of

individual to be treated (e.g. non-human primate, primate, etc.), the capacity of the individual's immune system to react to the antigen encoded protein or peptide, the condition to be treated, and other relevant factors. It is expected that the amount will fall in a relatively broad range that can be determined through routine trials. The self-replicating RNA content of compositions of the invention will generally be expressed in terms of the amount of RNA per dose. A preferred dose has <200μg, <100μg, <50μg,or <10μg self-replicating RNA, and expression can be seen at much lower levels e.g. <lμg/dose, <100ng/dose, <10ng/dose, <lng/dose, etc

[00154] Formulations suitable for parenteral administration, such as, for example, by intraarticular (in the joints), intravenous or intraperitoneal injection, and preferably by intramuscular, intradermal or subcutaneous injection, include aqueous and non-aqueous, isotonic sterile injection solutions, which can contain antioxidants, buffers, bacteriostats, and solutes that render the formulation isotonic with the blood of the intended recipient, and aqueous and nonaqueous sterile suspensions that can include suspending agents, solubilizers, thickening agents, stabilizers, and preservatives. The formulations of self-replicating RNA molecules can be presented in unit-dose or multi-dose sealed containers, such as ampoules and vials. Injection solutions and suspensions can be prepared from sterile powders, granules, and tablets. Cells transduced by the self-replicating RNA molecules can also be administered intravenously or parenterally.

[00155] When the pharmaceutical formulation is in the form of an emulsion, the self-replicating RNA molecules and emulsion can typically be mixed by simple shaking. Other techniques, such as passing a mixture of the emulsion and solution or suspension of the self-replicating RNA molecules rapidly through a small opening (such as a hypodermic needle), can be used to mix the pharmaceutical formulation.

[00156] Formulations suitable for oral administration can consist of (a) liquid solutions, such as an effective amount of the packaged nucleic acid suspended in diluents, such as water, saline or PEG 400; (b) capsules, sachets or tablets, each containing a predetermined amount of the active ingredient, as liquids, solids, granules or gelatin; (c) suspensions in an appropriate liquid; and (d) suitable emulsions. Tablet forms can include one or more of lactose, sucrose, mannitol, sorbitol, calcium phosphates, corn starch, potato starch, tragacanth, microcrystalline cellulose, acacia, gelatin, colloidal silicon dioxide, croscarmellose sodium, talc, magnesium stearate, stearic acid, and other excipients, colorants, fillers, binders, diluents, buffering agents, moistening agents, preservatives, flavoring agents, dyes, disintegrating agents, and pharmaceutically compatible carriers. Lozenge forms can comprise the active ingredient in a flavor, usually sucrose and acacia or tragacanth, as well as pastilles comprising the active ingredient in an inert base, such as gelatin and glycerin or sucrose and acacia emulsions, gels, and the like containing, in addition to the active ingredient, carriers known in the art. It is recognized that the self-replicating RNA molecules, when administered orally, must be protected from digestion. This is typically accomplished either by complexing the self-replicating RNA molecules with a composition to render it resistant to acidic and enzymatic hydrolysis or by packaging the self-replicating RNA molecules in an appropriately resistant carrier such as a liposome. Means of protecting nucleic acids, such as self-replicating RNA molecules, from digestion are well known in the art. The pharmaceutical compositions can be encapsulated, e.g., in liposomes, or in a formulation that provides for slow release of the active ingredient.

[00157] The composition comprising self-replicating RNA molecules, alone or in combination with other suitable components, can be made into aerosol formulations (e.g., they can be "nebulized") to be administered via inhalation. Aerosol formulations can be placed into pressurized acceptable propellants, such as dichlorodifluoromethane, propane, nitrogen, and the like.

[00158] Suitable suppository formulations contain of the self-replicating RNA molecule and a suppository base. Suitable suppository bases include natural or synthetic triglycerides or paraffin hydrocarbons. It is also possible to use gelatin rectal capsules filled with a combination of the self-replicating RNA with a suitable base, for example, liquid triglycerides, polyethylene glycols, and paraffin hydrocarbons.

METHODS OF TREATMENT AND MEDICAL USES

[00159] Self-replicating RNA molecules of the present invention can be delivered to a vertebrate, such as a mammal (including a human) for a variety of therapeutic or prophylactic purposes, such as to induce a therapeutic or prophylactic immune response. The present invention is also directed to methods of stimulating an immune response in or treating a subject comprising administering to the subject one or more self-replicating RNA molecules as described herein in an amount effective to achieve the desired treatment effect, such as an amount sufficient to produce an amount of the encoded exogenous gene product sufficient to

induce an immune response, to regulate expression of endogenous genes, or to provide therapeutic benefit. The subject is preferably an animal, a mammal, a fish, a bird and more preferably a human. Suitable animal subjects include, for example, cattle, pigs, horses, deer, sheep, goats, bison, rabbits, cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and the like.

[00160] The present invention is also directed to methods of inducing an immune response in a host animal comprising administering to the animal one or more self-replicating RNA molecules described herein in an amount effective to induce an immune response. Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecule encode a pathogen antigen. The host animal is preferably a mammal, more preferably a human. Preferred routes of administration are described above. The methods can be used to raise a booster response.

[00161] The present invention relates to methods of immunizing a subject against a pathogen (e.g., viral, bacterial, or parasitic pathogen) comprising administering to the subject one or more self-replicating RNA molecules that encode a pathogen antigen in an amount effective to induce a protective immune response. The host animal is preferably a mammal, more preferably a human. Preferred routes of administration are described above. While prophylactic or therapeutic treatment of the host animal can be directed to any pathogen, preferred pathogens, include, but are not limited to, the viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens described herein.

[00162] Self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can be used to raise an immune response in, or to immunize birds and mammals against diseases and infection, including without limitation cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, measles, meningitis, mumps, plague, poliomyelitis, rabies, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rubella, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, feline leukemia virus, and yellow fever.

[00163] Preferably, the self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention that encode a pathogen antigen induce protective immunity when administered to a subject.

[00164] Preferred routes of administration include, but are not limited to, intramuscular, intraperitoneal, intradermal, subcutaneous, intravenous, intraarterial, and intraoccular injection. Oral and transdermal administration, as well as administration by inhalation or suppository is also contemplated. Particularly preferred routes of administration include intramuscular, intradermal and subcutaneous injection. According to some embodiments of the present invention, the self-replicating RNA molecules are administered to a host animal using a needleless injection device, which are well-known and widely available.

[00165] Self-replicating RNA molecules of the invention can also be delivered to cells ex vivo, such as cells explanted from an individual patient (e.g., lymphocytes, bone marrow aspirates, tissue biopsy) or universal donor hematopoietic stem cells, followed by re-implantation of the cells into a patient, usually after selection for cells which have been transfected with the self-replicating RNA molecule. The appropriate amount of cells to deliver to a patient will vary with patient conditions, and desired effect, which can be determined by a skilled artisan. See e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,054,288; 6,048,524; and 6,048,729. Preferably, the cells used are autologous, i.e., cells obtained from the patient being treated.

[00166] Self-replicating RNA molecules, such as those that encode a pathogen antigen and thus are suitable for use to induce an immune response, can be introduced directly into a tissue, such as muscle. See, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 5,580,859. Other methods such as "biolistic" or particle-mediated transformation (see, e.g., Sanford et al, U.S. Pat. No. 4,945,050; U.S. Pat. No.

5,036,006) are also suitable for introduction of the self-replicating RNA into cells of a mammal according to the invention. These methods are useful not only for in vivo introduction of RNA into a mammal, but also for ex vivo modification of cells for reintroduction into a mammal.

[00167] It is contemplated that the self-replicating RNA molecule of this invention can be used in conjunction with whole cell or viral immunogenic compositions as well as with purified antigens, immunogens or protein subunit or peptide immunogenic compositions. It is sometimes advantageous to employ a self-replicating RNA vaccine that is targeted for a particular target cell type (e.g., an antigen presenting cell or an antigen processing cell).

[00168] An effective amount of self-replicating RNA is administested to the subject in accordance with the methods described herein, either in a single dose or as part of a series of doses. As described herein, this amount varies depending upon the health and physical condition of the individual to be treated, the condition to be treated, and other relevant factors. It is expected that the amount will fall in a relatively broad range that can be determined by a skilled clinician based on the factors discussed herein, and other relevant factors. A preferred dose can have <200μg self-replicating RNA, <100μg self-replicating RNA, <50μg self-replicating RNA, <10μg self-replicating RNA, and expression can be seen at much lower levels e.g. <lμg/dose, <100ng/dose, <10ng/dose, <lng/dose, etc

[00169] Self-replicating RNA molecules vaccines of the invention that express the polypeptides, can be packaged in packs, dispenser devices, and kits. For example, packs or

dispenser devices that contain one or more unit dosage forms are provided. Typically, instructions for administration will be provided with the packaging, along with a suitable indication on the label that the self replicating RNA molecule is suitable for treatment of an indicated condition. For example, the label may state that the self replicating RNA molecule within the packaging is useful for treating a particular infectious disease, autoimmune disorder, tumor, or for preventing or treating other diseases or conditions that are mediated by, or potentially susceptible to, a mammalian immune response.

Table 12. Phospholipids

DDPC 1 ,2-Didecanoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DEPA 1 ,2-Dierucoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -Phosphate

DEPC 1 ,2-Erucoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DEPE 1 ,2-Dierucoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine

DEPG l,2-Dierucoyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol...)

DLOPC 1 ,2-Linoleoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DLPA 1 ,2-Dilauroyl-sn-Glycero-3 -Phosphate

DLPC 1 ,2-Dilauroyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DLPE 1 ,2-Dilauroyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine

DLPG l,2-Dilauroyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol...)

DLPS 1 ,2-Dilauroyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylserine

DMG 1 ,2-Dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine

DMPA 1 ,2-Dimyristoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -Phosphate

DMPC 1 ,2-Dimyristoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DMPE 1 ,2-Dimyristoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine

DMPG 1 ,2-Myristoyl-sn-Glycero-3 [Phosphatidyl-rac-( 1 -glycerol...)

DMPS 1 ,2-Dimyristoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylserine

DOPA 1 ,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -Phosphate

DOPC 1 ,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DOPE 1 ,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine

DOPG l,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol...)

DOPS 1 ,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylserine

DPPA 1 ,2-Dipalmitoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -Phosphate

DPPC 1 ,2-Dipalmitoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

DPPE 1 ^-Dipalmitoyl-sn-Glycero-S-phosphatidylethanolamine

DPPG l,2-Dipalmitoyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol...)

DPPS 1 ^-Dipalmitoyl-sn-Glycero-S-phosphatidylserine

DPyPE 1 ^-diphytanoyl-sn-glycero-S-phosphoethanolamine

DSPA 1 ,2-Distearoyl-sn-Glycero-3-Phosphate

DSPC 1 ,2-Distearoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine

DSPE 1 ,2-Diostearpyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine

DSPG l,2-Distearoyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol...)

DSPS 1 ,2-Distearoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylserine

EPC Egg-PC

HEPC Hydrogenated Egg PC

HSPC High purity Hydrogenated Soy PC

HSPC Hydrogenated Soy PC

LYSOPC MYRISTIC l-Myristoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

LYSOPC PALMITIC l-Palmitoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

LYSOPC STEARIC l-Stearoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine

Milk Sphingomyelin MPPC l-Myristoyl,2-palmitoyl-sn-Glycero 3 -phosphatidylcholine

MSPC 1 -Myristoyl^-stearoyl-sn-Glycero-S-phosphatidylcholine

PMPC 1 -Palmitoyl^-myristoyl-sn-Glycero-S-phosphatidylcholine

POPC 1 -Palmitoyl,2-oleoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

POPE 1 -Palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylethanolamine

POPG l,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3[Phosphatidyl-rac-(l -glycerol)...]

PSPC 1 -Palmitoyl^-stearoyl-sn-Glycero-S-phosphatidylcholine

SMPC 1 -Stearoyl,2-myristoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine

SOPC 1 -Stearoyl,2-oleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine

SPPC 1 -Stearoyl,2-palmitoyl-sn-Glycero-3 -phosphatidylcholine

EXAMPLES

Example 1

In vitro synthesis of self-replicating RNAs introduction of single modified nucleoside at 100%

[00170] Plasmid DNA encoding an alphavirus replicon (VEE/SIN self-replicating RNA containing green fluorescent protein) served as a template for synthesis of RNA in vitro. The replicon RNA lacks the coding region for the structural proteins rendering it incapable of inducing the generation of infectious particles. In place of the structural proteins, the replicon RNA encodes green fluorescent protein, expression of which is driven by the alphavirus subgenomic promoter and is used to monitor replication/infection. The coding region is flanked by alphavirus 5'- and 3'-noncoding regions, a bacteriophage SP6 or T7 promoter at the 5 '-end and a poly(A)-tract followed by a hepatitis delta virus (HDV) ribozyme at the 3 '-end.

[00171] Following linearization of the plasmid DNA downstream of the HDV ribozyme with Pmel, run-off transcripts are synthesized in vitro employing SP6 or T7 derived DNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Transcriptions are performed at 37 0C for 4 hours using T7 or SP6 RNA polymerases and nucleotide triphosphates at 7.5 mM (for T7 RNA polymerase) or 5 mM (for SP6 RNA polymerase) final concentration using standard laboratory techniques described in the manufacturers directions (MEGAscript kits: Ambion, Austin, TX). All replicons are capped by supplementing the transcription reactions with 6 mM (for T7 RNA polymerase) or 4 mM (for SP6 RNA polymerase) m7G(5')ppp(5')G, a nonreversible cap structure analog (New England Biolabs, Beverly, MA) and lowering the concentration of guanosine triphosphate to 1.5 mM (for T7 RNA polymerase) or 1 mM (for SP6 RNA polymerase). To obtain self-replicating RNAs with modified nucleosides, the transcription is assembled by replacement of one nucleoside triphosphate (NTP) with the corresponding 5 '-triphosphate derivative selected from the following modified nucleosides: 5,6-dihydrouridine (D, N-1035), N^methyladenosine (M1A, N1042), N6-methyladenosine (M6A, N1013), 5-methylcytidine (M5C, N-1014),

NWthylguanosine (M1G, N-1039), 5-methyluridine (M5U, N1024), 2'-O-methyluridine (M5Um, N- 1043), 2'-O-methylpseudouridine, (Ψm, N 1041), pseudouridine (Ψ, N-1019), 2-thiocytidine (S2C, N-1036), 2-thiouridine (S2U, N1032), 4-thiouridine (S4U, N-1025), 2-O-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine (Cm, Nl 016), 2-O-methyl-2'-deoxyuridine (Um, Nl 018-1). Modified NTPs can be purchased from (Trilink Biotechnologies, San Diego, CA. As a control the same sequence comprising unmodified replicon RNA is generated. Purification of the transcripts is performed by TURBO DNase (Ambion, Austin, TX) digestion followed by LiCL precipitation and a wash in 75% ethanol. The concentration of RNA samples is reconstituted in water and measured for optical density at 260 nm. All RNA samples are analyzed by denaturing agarose gel electrophoresis for the presence of a full length construct.

[00172] In vitro GFP expression in BHK-21 cells is measured qualitatively using fluorescent microscopy. 500 μl BHK-21 cells at 2 x 107 cells/ml in OptiMEM (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) are mixed with 10 μg of the modified or unmodified replicon RNA and transferred to a 4 mm gap electroporation cuvette. Using a GenePulser Xcell (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA) cells are electroporated with two 100 ms pulses of 220V at 3750 μF and a pulse interval of 0.1 ms. Immediately after the second pulse, cells are transferred to 15 ml DMEM/5% FCS, seeded into appropriate tissue culture plates and incubated at 370C and 5% CO2 in a humidified atmosphere. Twenty-four hours after electroporation GFP expression is evaluated using a Nikon Diaphot 300 epi-fluorescent microscope. Cells are not fixed prior to imaging. Using a GFP filter set, images are acquired with Spot Advanced 4.7 imaging software (Diagnostic Instruments, Sterling Heights, MI). Protein lysates of transfected cells are separated by SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and transferred to a nitrocellulose membrane. After blocking unspecific binding sites using 10% non-fat dry milk in PBS/2.5% TWEEN -20, the membrane is incubated with murine polyclonal antiserum raised against alphavirus nonstructural proteins nsPl through nsP4 followed by HRPO-conjugated anti-mouse IgG. Proteins are visualized by

chemiluminescence and exposure to x-ray film.

[00173] In vitro transcription reactions are performed in which one of the nucleoside 5'-triphosphates is replaced with the corresponding modified nucleoside 5 '-triphosphate at 100%. Several base-modifications are capable of incorporation and production of the full-length 9kb GFP replicon RNA. When these self-replicating RNAs are electroporated into cells, GFP expression is observed for the unmodified sequences by fluorescence microscopy, but is not observed for the modified sequences. A western blot analysis of the cells electroporated with the modified full-length construct shows the absence of expression of nonstructural proteins.

Example 2

In vitro synthesis of self-replicating RNAs - introduction of a pseudouridine modified nucleoside at 1, 2.5, 5, 10, 25 and 50 %

[00174] Linearization of VEE/SIN plasmid DNA, transcription, assembly of RNA and purification thereof is performed as in Example 1. Self-replicating RNAs having modified nucleosides are assembled by replacing 1, 2.5, 5, 10, 25 and 50 % uridine-5 '-triphosphate with pseudouridine-5 ' -triphosphate (Ψ, N-1019, Trilink Biotechnologies, San Diego, CA). As a control, an unmodified replicon RNA is also generated. Purification of the transcripts was

performed by TURBO DNase (Ambion, Austin, TX) digestion followed LiCL precipitation and a wash in 75% ethanol. The concentration of RNA samples is reconstituted in water and measured for optical density at 260 nm. All RNA samples are analyzed by denaturing agarose gel electrophoresis for the presence of a full length construct. In vitro GFP expression in BHK-21 cells and analysis is performed as in Example 1. Data is confirmed by FACS analysis of trypsinized and fixed cells. When pseudouridine-5 ' -triphosphate is substituted at 0-50 % for unmodified uridine in GFP RNA replicons, all modifications result in production of full-length 9 kb GFP replicon RNA. GFP expression is observed for all the modified and unmodified sequences.

[00175] Base modifications can be introduced into a self-replicating RNA vector using in vitro transcription mediated by DNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Full-length constructs (9 kb) can be synthesized in yields that are comparable to those achieved when unmodified nucleoside triphosphates are used in the transcription reaction. Our preliminary in vitro experiments, using the GFP reporter gene, show that when base modified self-replicating RNA 's are transfected into cells, using either electroporation or DOTAP :DOPE, constructs are able to express GFP at levels comparable to those of the control (100 % unmodified bases). When self-replicating RNA are transfected into PBMCs using DOTAP :DOPE, it is found that base modified replicons are less stimulatory than the unmodified vectors, as measured by cytokine secretion.

Example 3

In vitro synthesis of self-replicating RNAs - introduction of pseudouridine, N6-methyladenosine, 5-methylcytidine, or 5-methyluridine at 10, 25 and 50 %

[00176] Preparation and analysis of modified RNAs are performed as in Example 1. Self-replicating RNAs with modified nucleosides are assembled by replacement of one nucleoside triphosphate with the corresponding triphosphate derivative of the following modified nucleosides: N6-methyladenosine (M6A, N1013), 5-methylcytidine (M5C, N-1014), 5-methyluridine (M5U, N 1024), pseudouridine (Ψ, N-1019) (Trilink Biotechnologies, San Diego, CA). In vitro transcription reactions are performed in which one of the nucleoside triphosphates is replaced with the corresponding modified nucleoside triphosphate at 10, 25 or 50%

incorporation. As a control, corresponding unmodified replicon RNA is generated.

[00177] Cells are not fixed prior to imaging. Using a GFP filter set, images are acquired with Spot Advanced 4.7 imaging software (Diagnostic Instruments, Sterling Heights, MI). After imaging, cells are trypsinized and placed in centrifuge tubes. After centrifugation at 400 g, pellets are washed with PBS and fixed in 2% formaldehyde in PBS. Quantitative in vitro GFP expression is then measured by flow cytometry. On the day of analysis cell pellets are resuspended and placed in FACSflow (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA USA). Cells are run on a FACScaliber flow cytometer; GFP expression is detected using the FL-I channel (530/30 emission). A total of 10,000 events are collected for each sample. Data is analyzed using the Cell Quest software (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA USA). The mean fluorescence intensity is determined by taking the average fluorescence of the green positive cells. Percent trans fected cells are calculated by setting a gate in the control sample, the same gate is used to assess positive cells for all of the samples.

[00178] All base-modifications at all percent incorporations results in production of the full-length 9 kb GFP replicon RNA. These RNAs and the unmodified control are electroporated into BHK-21 cells and after 24 hours qualitative GFP expression is measured using fluorescent microscopy. GFP expression is observed for all the modified and unmodified sequences. These data are confirmed by FACS analysis of the trypsinized and fixed cells.

Example 4

Physical characterization RNA and self-replicating RNA DOTAPrDOPE lipoplexes and stability in the presence of RNase

[00179] Liposome preparation: DOTAP (l,2-Dioleoyl-3-Trimethylammonium-Propane

[Chloride Salt], Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL) and DOPE (l,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-Phosphoethanolamine, Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL ) are dissolved in Chloroform at lOmg/ml. 0.5ml aliquots of DOTAP and DOPE in chloroform are placed into 3 ml glass vials and lipid films are prepared by evaporation of the chloroform using a rotary evaporator (Buchi model number R200) at 300 milliTorr pressure for 30 minutes at a water bath temperature of 500C. Residual chloroform is removed by placing the samples overnight in a Labconco freeze dryer under reduced pressure. The lipid film is then hydrated as a MLV by the addition of 1.0 mL of DEPC treated water (EMD Biosciences, San Diego, CA), high speed vortexing on a bench top vortexer and incubated at 5O0C in a heating block for 10 minutes followed by high speed vortexing on a bench top vortexer. After lipid reconstitution, lipoplexes are made by mixing with mRNA (total mouse thymus RNA (Ambion, Austin, TX) or self-replicating RNA at a variety of nitrogen to phosphate (N/P) ratio's. Each μg of mRNA or self-replicating RNA

molecule is assumed to contain 3 nmoles of anionic phosphate, each μg of DOTAP is assumed to contain 0.14 nmoles of cationic nitrogen. At N/P ratios over 1, excess positive charge, the lipid solution (50-100 μl) is added as a bolus using a 200 μl Ranin LTS handheld pipette to the RNA solution. At N/P ratios less than 1, excess of negative charge, the RNA solution is added (50-100 μl) as a bolus using a 200 μl Ranin LTS handheld pipette to the lipid solution. Lipolexes are then characterized.

[00180] Denaturing gel electrophoresis is performed to assess binding of self-replicating

RNA with the cationic formulations and stability in the presence of RNase A. The gel is as follows. 1 g of agarose is dissolved in 72 ml water until dissolved, then cooled to 600C, 10 ml of 1OX MOPS running buffer, and 18 ml 37% formaldehyde (12.3 M) is added to the agarose solution. The gel is poured and is allowed to set for at least 1 hour at room temperature. The gel is placed in a gel tank, and IX MOPS running buffer (Ambion) is added to cover the gel by a few millimeters. Self-replicating RNA is incubated with an equal volume of formaldehyde loading dye. For the ladder, 2μl of Millenium markers (Ambion) is added to 15μl of loading dye with 3μl of water. The sample is denatured for 15 minutes at 650C. Once cooled the samples are loaded into the gel and run at 80V. The gel is stained with SYBR gold (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) for 1.5 hours at room temperature. Gel images are taken on a Bio-Rad Chemidoc XRS imaging system (Hercules, CA).

[00181] After complexation of RNA, samples are incubated with 0.0 IU of RNase A for 10 minutes at room temperature. RNase is inactivated with an incubation of excess Protenase K at 550C for 10 minutes. 10% SDS is added to each sample to decomplex the anionic mRNA from the cationic lipid. Once decomplexed samples are analyzed by gel electrophoresis as described above.

[00182] To assess if the RNA is sufficiently bound to the cationic liposomes a denaturing gel is run at varying N/P ratio's. At higher N/P ratio's (10:1, 5:1, 2.5:1) there is no migration of the mRNA. Once the charge ratio changes from positive to negative, free mRNA is visible on the gel. To determine if mRNA is stable in the presence of RNase, gel electrophoresis after complexation and RNase incubation is performed. We are able to digest mRNA reliably with RNase A and can neutralize RNase A with proteinase K. Based on these data RNase digest experiments are run using the following protocol: Solutions (naked or lipolex formulated) of 2.5 μg RNA are incubated with 0.01 U RNase A for 10 minutes at room temperature, 50μg of

Proteinase K is then added and the solution is then incubated for 10 minutes at 55 0C. To assess if the lipoplex is able to inhibit RNase digestion, 1 :1 DOTAP :DOPE liposomes are complexed with either mouse thymus mRNA or with self-replicating RNA encoding GFP. Lipoplexes are incubated with 0.0 IU of RNase for 30 minutes at room temperature. After incubation RNase is digested with Protenase K at 55 0C for 10 minutes. After RNase deactivation lipoplexes are exposed to SDS to de-complex the mRNA from the lipoplex and run on the agarose gel.

Lipoplex is more stable to RNase digestion than the naked RNA (both mouse thymus mRNA and the in vitro transcribed self-replicating RNA).

Example 5

Delivery and GFP expression of self-replicating RNA DOTAPrDOPE lipoplexes

[00183] Liposome preparation: DOTAP (l,2-Dioleoyl-3-Trimethylammonium-Propane

[Chloride Salt], Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL) and DOPE (l,2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-Phosphoethanolamine, Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL ) are dissolved in Chloroform at lOmg/ml. 0.5ml aliquots of DOTAP and DOPE in chloroform are placed into 3 ml glass vials and lipid films are prepared by evaporation of the chloroform using a rotary evaporator (Buchi model number R200) at 300 milliTorr pressure for 30 minutes at a water bath temperature of 500C. For those lipid films that contain rodamine label, 0.5 % of the DOTAP is replaced with 2-Dioleoyl-sn-Glycero-3-Phosphoethanolamine-N-(Lissamine Rhodamine B Sulfonyl)

(Ammonium Salt) (catalogue # 810150, Avanti Polar Lipids, Alabaster, AL). Residual chloroform is removed by placing the samples overnight in a Labconco freeze dryer under reduced pressure. The lipid film is then hydrated as an MLV by the addition of 1.0 mL of DEPC treated water (EMD Biosciences, San Diego, CA), high speed vortexing on a bench top vortexer and incubation at 5O0C in a heating block for 10 minutes followed by high speed vortexing on a bench top vortexer. After lipid reconstitution, lipoplexes are made by mixing with mRNA (total mouse thymus RNA (Ambion, Austin, TX) or self-replicating RNA at a variety of nitrogen to phosphate (N/P) ratio's. Each μg of mRNA or self-replicating RNA molecule is assumed to contain 3 nmoles of anionic phosphate, each μg of DOTAP is assumed to contain 0.14 nmoles of cationic nitrogen. At N/P ratios over 1, excess positive charge, the lipid solution (50-100 μl) is added as a bolus using a 200 μl Ranin LTS handheld pipette to the RNA solution. At N/P ratios less than 1, excess of negative charge, the RNA solution is added (50-100 μl) as a bolus using a 200 μl Rainin LTS handheld pipette to the lipid solution.

[00184] To assess whether mRNA can be delivered into cells 0.5% rhodamine labeled

DOTAP:DOPE liposomes are complexed with mouse thymus mRNA at an N:P ratio of 4:1 as previously described. BHK-21 cells are plated and the lipoplexes are incubated at a 1.2 g dose in serum free media. At each time -point (0 hours, 0.5 hours, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours and 6 hours) the cells are washed three times with sterile serum free media, the cells are trypsinized and placed in 2% formaldehyde in PBS. At the end of the experiment cells are analyzed using a BD Biosciences FACScaliber flow cytometer (San Jose, CA) equipped with an argon 488 laser. The FL2 channel (585/42 emission) is used to detect cells containing rhodamine-labeled

lipopolyplexes. A total of 10000 events are counted. Results obtained are analyzed using CellQuest software.

[00185] In-vitro transfection: BHK-21 cells are plated in a 6 well plate at 70%

confluence. DOTAP:DOPE liposomes are complexed to mRNA replicons encoding GFP at an N:P ratio of 8:1 in DEPC water as previously described. Cells are incubated with lμg of mRNA replicon complexed with DOTAP:DOPE liposomes. After 2 hours cells are washed thrice with serum free DMEM, and serum containing media is added. After 24 hours cells are trypsinized and analyzed by FACS. BHK cells are incubated with lμg of self-replicating RNA complexed to DOTAP :DOPE liposomes for 2 hours in serum free DMEM. After 2 hours the cells are washed thrice with serum free media and are placed in a 370C incubator with 10% CO2 in DMEM containing 10% fetal bovine serum with 1% pen /strep. After 24 hours the cells are trypsinized.

[00186] In vitro GFP expression in BHK-21 cells is measured qualitatively using fluorescent microscopy. Twenty- four hours after transfection qualitative GFP expression is evaluated using a Nikon Diaphot 300 epi-fluorescent microscope. Cells are not fixed prior to imaging. Using a GFP filter set, images are acquired with Spot Advanced 4.7 imaging software. After imaging cells are placed back in the incubator for FACS analysis. Quantitative in vitro GFP expression is then measured by flow. Cells are trypsinized and placed in centrifuge tubes. After centrifugation at 4.5k RPM pellets are washed with PBS and fixed in 2% Formaldehyde in PBS. On the day of analysis cell pellets are re suspended and placed in FACSflow (BD

Biosciences, San Jose, CA USA). Cells are run on a FACScaliber flow cytometer; GFP expression is detected using the FL-I channel (530/30 emission). A total of 10,000 events are collected for each sample. Data was analyzed using the Cell Quest software. The mean

fluorescence intensity is determined by taking the average fluorescence of the green positive cells. Percent transfected cells are calculated by setting a gate in the control sample, the same gate is used to assess positive cells for all of the samples.

[00187] Rhodamine labeled lipoplexes are incubated with BHK-21 cells for up to 6 hours.

As time progresses there is an increase in the amount of cells that display fluorescence and also an increase in the fluorescence intensity over time indicating the particles are being taken up by the BHK-21 cells. Flow cytometry is performed to determine if the self-replicating RNA (encoding GFP) is able to transfect the cells after being complexed with the DOTAP :DOPE liposomes. BHK-21 cells can be transfected with a lipid based transfection reagent complexed with a self-replicating RNA encoding for GFP mRNA.

Example 6

Fluorescent microscopy of unfixed BHK-21 cells after electroporation with unmodified and base-modified self-replicating RNA encoding GFP.

[00188] To obtain self-replicating RNAs that encode GFP and contaned modified nucleosides, the transcription reactionwas assembled with 0, 25, 50 and 100 % replacement of CTP with the 5-methylcytidine (M5C). RP-HPLC analysis is used to confirm the incorporation of the base-modification. RNA is digested with nuclease Pl for 16 hours at 550C, to the monophosphates and then dephosphorylated using CIAP for one hour at 370C. Injections are made on a YMC Pack ODS-AQ column (5 micron, 4.6 X 250 mm) and the nucleosides are eluted using a gradient, 30% B (0-5 minutes) to 100 % B (5 - 13 minutes) and at 100 % B (13-40) minutes at a flow rate of 0.7 ml/min. UV detection is measured at 260 nm wavelength, and the column temperature is 30 0C. Buffer A (2OmM acetic acid - ammonium acetate pH 3.5), buffer B (2OmM acetic acid - ammonium acetate pH 3.5 / methanol [90/10]).

[00189] BHK-21 cells were transfected with the self-replicating RNAs using

electroporation. Twenty- four hours after electroporation, GFP expression in unfixed BHK-21 cells was assessed using fluorescent microscopy as described in Example 5. The results are shown in FIG. 1A-1D, and show that the amount of GFP expression decreased as the amount of modified nucleoside in the self-replicating RNA increased.

Example 7

RSV-F specific antibody titers.

[00190] BALB/c mice were vaccinated twice, once at day 0 and again at day 14, with alphavirus replicon RNA (1, 10 ug), replicon RNA (1 ug) adsorbed to CNEOl, or with alphavirus replicon particles (5xlO6 IU). Serum was collected 14 days after the second vaccination and tested by ELISA for RSV F-specific IgG. FIG. 3 shows the F-specific antibody titer for the alphavirus replicon RNA, replicon RNA adsorbed to CNEOl and the alphavirus replicon particles.

Example 8

RSV-F specific antibody titers induced using naked self-replicating RNA that contained Ψ,

M6A, or M5U

[00191] Replicon RNA containing modified bases Ψ, M6A, and M5U was tested for immunogenicity in mice using RSV F as the antigen of interest. The objective was to compare the immunogenicity of base modified (U replaced by Ψ, M6A, or M5U) replicon RNA to unmodified replicon RNA. In all studies, the replicon RNA vector used was VCR2.1 (FIG. 11) and it was co-transcriptionally capped. Sera was collected at specific time points, aliquots pooled and then tested by ELISA for the titer of F-specific serum IgG.

[00192] In the first study, Ψ was substituted for U at a level of 10- 100% . BALB/c mice were vaccinated by intramuscular injection on days 0, 14 and 28 with replicon RNA encoding RSV antigen. The RNA dose was 1 μg or 10 μg. Sera were collected 2 weeks after each vaccination. Table 6 compares the F-specific IgG titers for base-modified (10-100% Ψ) and wild-type RNA.

Table 6: F-specific BALB/c mouse serum IgG titers

Pooled serum F-specific IgG titer

Replicon RNA modification

Serum collected RNA dose (meg) Wild-type 10% Ψ 25% Ψ 50% Ψ 100% Ψ

2wpl 1 500 600 2000 100 <25

10 1800 1700 2300 1000 <25

2wp2 1 4400 4700 6400 900 100

10 8800 11200 12700 4100 <25

2wp3 1 6500 12900 12900 3600 1100

10 25100 25100 31900 11600 300

[00193] In the second study, Ψ was substituted for U at a level of 25% and M6A was substituted for U at a level of 10-100%. BALB/c mice were vaccinated by intramuscular injection on days 0, 14 and 18 with replicon RNA encoding RSV antigen. The RNA dose was 0.1 μg, 0.3 μg, 1 μg or 10 μg. Sera were collected 13 days after each vaccination. Table 7 compares the F-specific IgG titers for base modified (25% Ψ or 10-100% M6A) and wild-type RNA. Titer less than 25 indicates that the RNA was not immunogenic.

Table 7: F-specific serum IgG titers

Pooled serum F-specific IgG titer

RNA modification

RNA

Serum dose Wild- 25% Ψ 10% 25% 50% 100%

collected (meg) type M6A M6A M6A M6A

13 dpi 0.1 < 25 < 25

0.3 < 25 < 25

1 < 25 40 300 < 25 < 25 < 25

10 1100 500 1000 < 25 < 25

13dp2 0.1 100 40

0.3 300 300

1 1800 1900 3400 100 < 25 < 25

10 8600 3300 4100 < 25 < 25

[00194] In the third study, M5U was substituted for U at a level of 10- 100% M5U.

BALB/c mice were vaccinated by intramuscular injection on days 0 and 14 with replicon RNA encoding RSV antigen. The RNA dose was 0.1 μg or 1 μg. Sera were collected 2 weeks after each vaccination. Table 8 compares the F-specific IgG titers for base modified (10-100% M5U) and wild-type RNA.

Table 8 : F-specific serum IgG titers

Pooled serum F-specific IgG titer

RNA base modification

RNA

Serum dose Wild- 10% 25% 50% 100%

collected (meg) type M5U M5U M5U M5U

2wpl 0.1 300 1200 100 400 100

1 1000 4100 1800 900 500

2wp2 0.1 1000 1200 300 1700 200

1 7400 8100 7100 4300 1200

[00195] In summary, replacement of 10-25% of U with Ψ resulted in replicon RNA with immunogenicity similar to that of unsubstituted (wild-type) RNA. However, replacement with 50-100% Ψ resulted in replicon RNA that was less immunogenic than wild-type RNA. Replicon RNA containing 10-25% M6A was about as immunogenic as wild-type RNA, and replicon RNA containing 50-100% M6A was not immunogenic. Replacement of 10-50% M5U had relatively little effect on immunogenicity, whereas 100% M5U substitution resulted in RNA that was less immunogenic.

[00196] These results show that self-replicating RNA molecules that contain three different modifications, and in differing amounts, induced immune responses against the encoded RSV-F protein when administered as naked RNA. The results also show that 25% or less modified nucleotide produced the greatest antibody titers.

Example 9. Expression and Immunogenicity of Modified Self-Replicating RNAs

[00197] The following methods were used in the studies described in this example.

RNA synthesis

[00198] Plasmid DNA encoding alphavirus replicons served as a template for synthesis of

RNA in vitro. The sequences of the plasmids are shown in Figures 9-12. The replicons contain the alphavirus genetic elements required for RNA replication but lack those encoding gene products necessary for particle assembly; the structural genes of the alphavirus genome are replaced by sequences encoding a heterologous protein. Upon delivery of the replicons to eukaryotic cells, the positive-stranded RNA is translated to produce four non-structural proteins, which together replicate the genomic RNA and transcribe abundant subgenomic mRNAs encoding the heterologous gene product. Due to the lack of expression of the alphavirus structural proteins, replicons are incapable of inducing the generation of infectious particles. A bacteriophage (T7 or SP6) promoter upstream of the alphavirus cDNA facilitates the synthesis of the replicon RNA in vitro and the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) ribozyme immediately

downstream of the poly(A)-tail generates the correct 3 '-end through its self-cleaving activity. [00199] Following linearization of the plasmid DNA downstream of the HDV ribozyme with a suitable restriction endonuclease, run-off transcripts were synthesized in vitro using T7 or SP6 bacteriophage derived DNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Transcriptions were performed for 2 hours at 370C in the presence of 7.5 mM (T7 RNA polymerase) or 5 mM (SP6 RNA polymerase) of each of the nucleoside triphosphates (ATP, CTP, GTP and UTP) following the instructions provided by the manufacturer (Ambion, Austin, TX). Following transcription, the template DNA was digested with TURBO DNase (Ambion, Austin, TX). The replicon RNA was precipitated with LiCl and reconstituted in nuclease-free water. To generate capped RNAs, in vitro transcription reactions were supplemented with 6 mM (T7 RNA polymerase) or 4 mM (SP6 RNA polymerase) RNA cap structure analog (New England Biolabs, Beverly, MA) while lowering the concentration of GTP to 1.5 mM (T7 RNA polymerase) or 1 mM (SP6 RNA polymerase). Alternatively, uncapped RNA was capped post-transcripionally with Vaccinia Capping Enzyme (VCE) using the ScriptCap m7G Capping System (Epicentre Biotechnologies, Madison, WI) as outlined in the user manual. Post-transcriptionally capped RNA was precipitated with LiCl and reconstituted in nuclease-free water. The concentration of the RNA samples was determined by measuring the optical density at 260 nm. Integrity of the in vitro transcripts was confirmed by denaturing agarose gel electrophoresis.

[00200] To obtain self-replicating RNAs with modified nucleosides, the transcription was assembled with replacement, at the required percentage, of one nucleoside triphosphate with the corresponding 5 '-triphosphate derivative of the following modified nucleosides: 5,6-dihydrouridine (D, N-1035), N^methyladenosine (M1A, N1042), N6-methyladenosine (M6A, N1013), 5-methylcytidine (M5C, N-1014), NWthylguanosine (M1G, N-1039), 5-methyluridine (M5U, N1024), 2'-O-methyl-5-methyluridine (M5Um, N-1043), 2'-O-methylpseudouridine, (Ψm, N1041), pseudouridine (Ψ, N-1019), 2-thiocytidine (S2C, N-1036), 2-thiouridine (S2U, N 1032), 4-thiouridine (S4U, N- 1025), 2-O-methylcytidine (Cm, Nl 016), 2-O-methyluridine (Um, N1018). Modified NTPs were purchased from Trilink Biotechnologies (San Diego, CA).

Viral replicon particles (VRP)

[00201] To compare RNA vaccines to traditional RNA-vectored approaches for achieving in vivo expression of reporter genes or antigens, we utilized viral replicon p_articles (VRPs) produced in BHK cells by the methods described by Perri et al. (2003) J Virol 77: 10394-10403.

In this system, the antigen (or reporter gene) replicons consisted of alphavirus chimeric replicons (VCR) derived from the genome of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) engineered to contain the 3 ' terminal sequences (3 ' UTR) of Sindbis virus and a Sindbis virus packaging signal (PS) (see Fig. 2 of Perri et al). These replicons were packaged into VRPs by co-electroporating them into baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells along with defective helper RNAs encoding the Sindbis virus capsid and glycoprotein genes (see Fig. 2 of Perri et al). The VRPs were then harvested and titrated by standard methods and inoculated into animals in culture fluid or other isotonic buffers.

Liposome Formulation

[00202] l,2-dilinoleyloxy-N,N-dimethyl-3-aminopropane (DlinDMA) was synthesized using a previously published procedure [Heyes, J., Palmer, L., Bremner, K., MacLachlan, I. Cationic lipid saturation influences intracellular delivery of encapsulated nucleic acids. Journal of Controlled Release, 107: 276-287 (2005)]. 1, 2-Diastearoyl-s/?-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC) was purchased from Genzyme. Cholesterol was obtained from Sigma- Aldrich (St. Lois, MO). 1, 2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine-N-[methoxy(polyethylene glycol)-2000] (ammonium salt) (PEG DMG 2000), were obtained from Avanti Polar Lipids (Alabaster, AL). l,2-dioleoyl-3-trimethylammonium-propane (chloride salt) (DOTAP) were obtained from Avanti Polar Lipids.

Liposome formulation - RVOl(Ol):

[00203] Fresh lipid stock solutions in ethanol were prepared. 37 mg of DlinDMA, 11.8 mg of DSPC, 27.8 mg of Cholesterol and 8.07 mg of PEG DMG 2000 were weighed and dissolved in 7.55 mL of ethanol. The freshly prepared lipid stock solution was gently rocked at 37 0C for about 15 min to form a homogenous mixture. Then, 755 μL of the stock was added to 1.245 mL ethanol to make a working lipid stock solution of 2 mL. This amount of lipids was used to form liposomes with 250 μg RNA at a 8:1 N:P (Nitrogen to Phosphate) ratio. The protonatable nitrogen on DlinDMA (the cationic lipid) and phosphates on the RNA are used for this calculation. Each μg of self-replicating RNA molecule was assumed to contain 3 nmoles of anionic phosphate, each μg of DlinDMA was assumed to contains 1.6 nmoles of cationic nitrogen. A 2 mL working solution of RNA was also prepared from a stock solution of- lμg/μL

in 100 niM citrate buffer (pH 6) (Teknova, Hollister, CA)). Three 20 mL glass vials (with stir bars) were rinsed with RNase Away solution (Molecular BioProducts, San Diego, CA) and washed with plenty of MiIIiQ water before use to decontaminate the vials of RNAses. One of the vials was used for the RNA working solution and the others for collecting the lipid and RNA mixes (as described herein). The working lipid and RNA solutions were heated at 37 0C for 10 min before being loaded into 3cc luer-lok syringes (BD Medical, Franklin Lakes, NJ). 2 mL of citrate buffer (pH 6) was loaded in another 3 cc syringe. Syringes containing RNA and the lipids were connected to a T mixer (PEEK™ 500 μm ID junction, Idex Health Science, Oak Harbor, WA) using FEP tubing([fluorinated ethylene-propylene] 2mm ID x 3mm OD, Idex Health Science, Oak Harbor, WA). The outlet from the T mixer was also FEP tubing (2mm ID x 3mm). The third syringe containing the citrate buffer was connected to a separate piece of tubing (2mm ID x 3mm OD). All syringes were then driven at a flow rate of 7 mL/min using a syringe pump (kdScientifϊc, model no. KDS-220, Holliston, MA). The tube outlets were positioned to collect the mixtures in a 20 mL glass vial (while stirring). The stir bar was taken out and the

ethanol/aqueous solution was allowed to equilibrate to room temperature for I h. 4 ml of the mixture was loaded into a 5 cc syringe (BD Medical), which was connected to a piece of FEP tubing (2mm ID x 3mm OD, Idex Health Science, Oak Harbor, WA) and in another 5 cc syringe connected to an equal length of FEP tubing, an equal amount of 100 mM citrate buffer (pH 6) was loaded. The two syringes were driven at 7mL/min flow rate using the syringe pump and the final mixture collected in a 20 mL glass vial (while stirring). Next, the mixture collected from the second mixing step (LNPs) were passed through a Mustang Q membrane (an anion-exchange support that binds and removes anionic molecules, obtained from Pall Corporation, AnnArbor, MI, USA). Before passing the liposomes, 4 mL of 1 M NaOH, 4 mL of 1 M NaCl and 10 mL of 100 mM citrate buffer (pH 6) were successively passed through the Mustang membrane.

Liposomes were warmed for 10 min at 37 0C before passing through the mustang filter. Next, Liposomes were concentrated to 2 mL and dialyzed against 10-15 volumes of IX PBS (from Teknova) using the Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) system before recovering the final product. The TFF system and hollow fiber filtration membranes were purchased from Spectrum Labs (Rancho Dominguez, CA) and were used according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

Polysulfone hollow fiber filtration membranes (part number P/N: XlAB- 100-20P) with a 100 kD pore size cutoff and 8 cm2 surface area were used. For in vitro and in vivo experiments, formulations were diluted to the required RNA concentration with IX PBS (from Teknova).

Method of preparing cationic nanoemulsion 17 (CNE17)

[00204] Squalene, sorbitan trioleate (Span 85), polyoxy- ethylene sorbitan monololeate

(T ween 80) were obtained from Sigma (St. Louis, MO, USA). l,2-Dioleoyl-3- trimethylammonium-propane (DOTAP) was purchased from Lipoid (Ludwigshafen Germany). Cationic nanoemulsions (CNEs) were prepared similar to charged MF59 as previously described with minor modifications (Ott, et al. Journal of Controlled Release, 79(l-3):l-5 (2002)). Briefly, oil soluble components (ie. Squalene, span 85, cationic lipids, lipid surfactants) were combined in a beaker, lipid components were dissolved in chloroform (CHCI3) or dichloromethane (DCM). The resulting lipid solution was added directly to the oil plus span 85. The solvent was allowed to evaporate at room temperature for 2 hours in a fume hood prior to combining the aqueous phase and homogenizing the sample using an IKA T25 homogenizer at 24K RPM in order to provide a homogeneous feedstock. The primary emulsions were passed three to five times through a Micro fluidezer Ml 1OS or Ml 1 OPS homogenizer with an ice bath cooling coil at a homogenization pressure of approximately 15k - 20k PSI (Microfluidics, Newton, MA). The 20ml batch samples were removed from the unit and stored at 40C. Table 9 describes the composition of CNE 17.

Table 9

RNA complexation

[00205] The number of nitrogens in solution were calculated from the cationic lipid concentration, DOTAP for example has 1 nitrogen that can be protonated per molecule. The RNA concentration was used to calculate the amount of phosphate in solution using an estimate of 3 nmols of phosphate per microgram of RNA. By varying the amount of RNA : Lipid the N/P

ratio can be modified. RNA was complexed to CNE 17 at a nitrogen / phosphate ratios (N/P) of 10:1. Using these values The RNA was diluted to the appropriate concentration in RNase free water and added directly into an equal volume of emulsion while vortexing lightly. The solution was allowed to sit at room temperature for approximately 2 hours. Once complexed the resulting solution was diluted to the required concentration prior to administration.

Secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) assay

[00206] To assess the kinetics and amount of expression (protein production) in vivo, an

RNA replicon encoding for SEAP was administered with and without formulation to mice via intramuscularly injection. Groups of 5 female BALB/c mice aged 8-10 weeks and weighing about 2Og were immunized with liposomes encapsulating RNA encoding for SEAP. Naked RNA was administered in RNase free IX PBS. As a positive control, viral replicon particles (VRPs) at a dose of 5X105 infectious units (IU) were also sometimes administered. A lOOμl dose was administered to each mouse (50μl per site) in the quadriceps muscle. Blood samples were taken 1, 3, and 6 days post injection. Serum was separated from the blood immediately after collection, and stored at -3O0C until use.

[00207] A chemiluminescent SEAP assay Phospha-Light System (Applied Biosystems,

Bedford, MA) was used to analyze the serum. Mouse sera were diluted 1 :4 in IX Phospha-Light dilution buffer. Samples were placed in a water bath sealed with aluminum sealing foil and heat inactivated for 30 minutes at 65°C. After cooling on ice for 3 minutes, and equilibrating to room temperature, 50 μL of Phospha-Light assay buffer was added to the wells and the samples were left at room temperature for 5 minutes. Then, 50 μL of reaction buffer containing 1 :20 CSPD® (chemiluminescent alkaline phosphate substrate) substrate was added, and the luminescence was measured after 20 minutes of incubation at room temperature. Luminescence was measured on a Berthold Centra LB 960 luminometer (Oak Ridge, TN) with a 1 second integration per well. The activity of SEAP in each sample was measured in duplicate and the mean of these two measurements taken.

Murine immunogenicity studies

[00208] Groups of 10 female BALB/c mice aged 8-10 weeks and weighing about 20 g were immunized at day 0 and day 21 with bleeds taken at days 14, 35 and 49. All animals were injected in the quadriceps in the two hind legs each getting an equivalent volume (50μl per site). When measurement of T cell responses was required, spleens were harvested at day 35 or 49.

Mouse T cell function assays

Intracellular cytokines immunofluorescence assay

[00209] Two to five spleens from identically vaccinated BALB/c mice were pooled and single cell suspensions were prepared for culture. Two antigen- stimulated cultures and two unstimulated cultures were established for each splenocyte pool. Antigen-stimulated cultures contained IxIO6 splenocytes, RSV F peptide 85-93 (IxIO"6 M), RSV F peptide 249-258 (IxIO"6 M), RSV F peptide 51-66 (IxIO"6 M), anti-CD28 mAb (1 mcg/mL), and Brefeldin A (1 :1000). Unstimulated cultures did not contain RSV F peptides, and were otherwise identical to the stimulated cultures. After culturing for 6 hours at 37 0C, cultures were processed for immunofluorescence. Cells were washed and then stained with fluorescently labeled anti-CD4 and anti-CD8 monoclonal antibodies (mAb). Cells were washed again and then fixed with Cytofϊx/cytoperm for 20 minutes. The fixed cells were then washed with Perm- wash buffer and then stained with fluorescently labeled mAbs specific for IFN-g, TNF-a, IL-2, and IL-5. Stained cells were washed and then analyzed on an LSR II flow cytometer. Flow Jo software was used to analyze the acquired data. The CD4+8- and CD8+4- T cell subsets were analyzed separately. For each subset in a given sample the % cytokine-positive cells was determined. The % RSV F antigen-specific T cells was calculated as the difference between the % cytokine-positive cells in the antigen-stimulated cultures and the % cytokine-positive cells in the unstimulated cultures. The 95% confidence limits for the % antigen- specific cells were determined using standard methods (Statistical Methods, 7th Edition, G. W. Snedecor and W.G. Cochran).

Secreted cytokines assay

[00210] The cultures for the secreted cytokines assay were similar to those for the intracellular cytokines immunofluorescence assay except that Brefeldin A was omitted. Culture supernatants were collected after overnight culture at 37 0C, and were analyzed for multiple cytokines using mouse Thl/Th2 cytokine kits from Meso Scale Discovery. The amount of each cytokine per culture was determined from standard curves produced using purified, recombinant cytokines supplied by the manufacturer.

RSV F-specifϊc ELISA

[00211] Individual serum samples were assayed for the presence of RSV F-specifϊc IgG by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ELISA plates (MaxiSorp 96-well, Nunc) were coated overnight at 40C with 1 μg/ml purified RSV F (delp23-furdel-trunc uncleaved) in PBS. After washing (PBS with 0.1% Tween-20), plates were blocked with Superblock Blocking Buffer in PBS (Thermo Scientific) for at least 1.5 hr at 370C. The plates were then washed, serial dilutions of serum in assay diluent (PBS with 0.1% Tween-20 and 5% goat serum) from experimental or control cotton rats were added, and plates were incubated for 2 hr at 370C. After washing, plates were incubated with horse radish peroxidase (HRP)-conjugated chicken anti-cotton rat IgG (Immunology Consultants Laboratory, Inc, diluted 1 :5,000 in assay diluent) for 1 hr at 370C. Finally, plates were washed and 100 μl of TMB peroxidase substrate solution (Kirkegaard & Perry Laboratories, Inc) was added to each well. Reactions were stopped by addition of 100 μl of IM H3PO4, and absorbance was read at 450 nm using a plate reader. For each serum sample, a plot of optical density (OD) versus logarithm of the reciprocal serum dilution was generated by nonlinear regression (GraphPad Prism). Titers were defined as the reciprocal serum dilution at an OD of approximately 0.5 (normalized to a standard, pooled sera from RSV -infected cotton rats with a defined titer of 1 :2500, that was included on every plate).

Example 9A - in vivo SEAP expression

[00212] This study was conducted with the A306 replicon, which expresses secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP). BALB/c mice, 5 animals per group, were given bilateral intramuscular vaccinations (50 μL per leg) on days 0 with VRP's expressing SEAP (5xlO5 IU), unmodified naked self-replicating RNA (A306u, 1 μg), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 25% pseudouridine (ψ) (A306m25%ψ, 1 μg), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% N6-methyladenosine (M6A) (A306ml0%M6A, 1 μg ), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% 5-methyluridine (M5U ) (A306ml0%M5U, 1 μg ), unmodified self-replicating RNA (A306u, 1 μg) formulated with CNE 17, modified self-replicating RNA containing 25% pseudouridine (ψ) (A306m25%ψ, 1 μg) formulated with CNE 17, modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% N6-methyladenosine (M6A) (A306ml0M6A, 1 μg ) formulated with CNE17, modified self-replicating RNA containing 10% 5-methyluridine (M5U ) (A306ml0M5U, 1 μg ) formulated with CNE17.

Results

[00213] Serum SEAP levels on days 1, 3 and 6 after intramuscular vaccination on day 0 are shown in Table 10.

Table 10


Table 10. In vivo SEAP expression. Serum SEAP levels (relative light units, RLU) of mice, 5 animals per group, after intramuscular vaccinations on day 0. Serum was collected for SEAP analysis on days 1, 3 and 6. Data are represented as arithmetic mean titers of 5 individual mice per group. VRP = viral replicon particle, A306u = TC83 replicon expressing SEAP and containing unmodified bases. A306m = TC83 replicon expressing SEAP and containing modified base at the specified percentage and type.

Conclusions

[00214] All constructs produced measurable levels of SEAP in the serum of the vaccinated mice. Formulation with CNE 17 increased the levels of expression, particularly at the day 6 time point. Comparing between the different modifications tested at day 6. For naked RNA groups, the unmodified, 10%M6A and 10%M5U had serum SEAP levels that were within 2-fold of each other. The 25 %ψ modification, in this experiment, had a negative impact on SEAP expression. For the CNE 17 formulated groups, the unmodified and 10%M5U had serum SEAP levels that were within 2-fold of each other. The 25%ψ and 10%M6A modifications, in this experiment, had a negative impact on SEAP expression.

Example 9B - in vivo SEAP expression

[00215] This study was conducted with the A306 replicon, which expresses secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP). BALB/c mice, 5 animals per group, were given bilateral intramuscular vaccinations (50 μL per leg) on days 0 with VRP's expressing SEAP (5xlO5 IU), unmodified naked self-replicating RNA (A306u, 0.1 and 1 μg), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 25% pseudouridine (ψ) (A306m25%ψ, 0.1 and 1 μg), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% N6-methyladenosine (M6A) (A306ml0%M6A, 0.1 and 1 μg ), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% 5-methyluridine (M5U ) (A306ml0%M5U, 0.1 and 1 μg ), unmodified self-replicating RNA (A306u, 0.1 and 1 μg) formulated with

RVOl(Ol), modified self-replicating RNA containing 25% pseudouridine (ψ) (A306m25%ψ, 0.1 and 1 μg) formulated with RVOl(Ol), modified naked self-replicating RNA containing 10% N6-methyladenosine (M6A) (A306ml0M6A, 0.1 and 1 μg ) formulated with RVOl(Ol), modified self-replicating RNA containing 10% 5-methyluridine (M5U ) (A306m 10M5U, 0.1 and 1 μg ) formulated with RVO 1 (01 ).

Results

[00216] Serum SEAP levels on days 1, 3 and 6 after intramuscular vaccination on day 0 are shown in Table 11.

Table 11



Table I I . In vivo SEAP expression. Serum SEAP levels (relative light units, RLU) of mice, 5 animals per group, after intramuscular vaccinations on day 0. Serum was collected for SEAP analysis on days 1, 3 and 6. Data are represented as arithmetic mean titers of 5 individual mice per group. VRP = viral replicon particle, A306u = TC83 replicon expressing SEAP and containing unmodified bases. A306m = TC83 replicon expressing SEAP and containing modified base at the specified percentage and type.

Conclusions

[00217] All constructs produced measurable levels of SEAP in the serum of the vaccinated mice. Formulation with liposome (RVOl(Ol)) increased the levels of expression, particularly at the day 6 time point. RVOl(Ol) formulations with unmodified and 10%M5U replicon had high serum SEAP levels at day 1, relative to the naked RNA controls. Comparing between the different modifications tested at day 6. For naked RNA groups, the unmodified, and 10%M5U had serum SEAP levels that were within 2-fold of each other. The 25%ψ and 10%M6A modifications, in this experiment, had a negative impact on SEAP expression. For the RVOl formulated groups, the unmodified, 10%M6A and 10%M5U had serum SEAP levels that were within 2-fold of each other. The 25%ψ modification, in this experiment, had a negative impact on SEAP expression.

Example 9C - RSV-F immunogenicity study

[00218] The A317 replicon that expresses the surface fusion glycoprotein of RSV (RSV- F) was used for this study. BALB/c mice, 8 animals per group, were given bilateral

intramuscular vaccinations (50 μL per leg) on days 0 and 21 with VRP 's expressing RSV-F (IxIO6 IU), naked self-replicating RNA (A306, 1, 0.1, 0.01 μg) and self-replicating RNA formulated in LNP (RVOl(Ol) using method 1 (A317, 10.0, 1.0, 0.1, 0.01 μg). Serum was collected for antibody analysis on days 14 (2wpl) and (2wp2). Spleens were harvested from 5 mice per group at day 49 (4wp2) for T cell analysis.

Results

[00219] F-specific serum IgG titers on day 14 and 35 are shown in FIGS. 4-6 (tables 1-3) and T cell responses at day 49 are shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 (tables 4 and 5).

Conclusions

[00220] One objective was to evaluate the effect of replacing U with M5U in the replicon

RNA. The degree of replacement was 10%. Another objective was to evaluate the effect of liposome formulation on RNA vaccine immunogenicity. RNA containing 10% M5U, whether unformulated or liposome formulated was slightly less immunogenic than wild-type RNA. On the other hand, liposome formulation increased RNA immunogenicity significantly. FIGS. 4-6 (Tables 1-3) show that with or without liposome formulation, RNA containing 10% M5U was less immunogenic than wild-type RNA. In addition, liposome formulation of RNA vaccine boosted F-specific IgG titers in sera collected after one (20-150 fold increase) or two (12-60 fold increase) vaccinations.