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1. (WO2018042178) MODIFIED FACTOR H BINDING PROTEIN
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MODIFIED FACTOR H BINDING PROTEIN

This invention relates to a modified factor H binding protein (fHbp) and its use to elicit an immune response against pathogenic infection or colonisation, such as against Neisseria meningitidis or Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) remains a leading cause of sepsis and bacterial meningitis in children and young adults. The onset of disease can be extremely rapid, with fatality rates of around 10% for septicaemic disease1, while those that survive can suffer significant disabilities including loss of limbs and neurological deficits1. Therefore prophylactic immunisation is the best way to protect individuals from meningococcal infection. Vaccines are available based on the bacterial capsule2, but there are only partially effective vaccines available for endemic serogroup B infection, which causes over 80% of cases in the UK currently3 ; the polysaccharide of serogroup B capsule Nm is poorly immunogenic as it has structural identity with a human glycoprotein in neural tissue and could induce autoimmunity if used as a vaccine4. Therefore there is an urgent need to generate novel vaccines, and there are intense efforts in academia and industry to achieve this important goal.

The maj or target of the immune response elicited against meningococcal outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) is PorA16 17 18, an integral outer membrane protein (OMP) in the meningococcus19. However, the sequence of this protein is diverse and the prevalence of particular variants differs by geographic region, and OMV vaccines are largely PorA-specific. Variants of PorA are identified by sequences in the variable-regions (VR) of the protein, which are located in the surface-exposed loops of the protein and are the target of immune responses17. PorA has seven extracellular loops; the fourth loop is variable region 2 (VR2) and is the target of most serum bactericidal activity (SBA) generated by PorA following natural infection and after immunisation with OMVs16'18. SBA is a known correlate of protection against meningococcal disease. Despite sequence diversity, around 70 % of UK isolates would be covered by vaccines containing six PorA proteins (http://pubmlst.org/neisseria/PorA/).

A major obstacle for bacterial vaccine development is the difficulty in producing quantities of integral OMPs, such as PorA, in their native conformation. This is because OMPs contain hydrophobic domains which span the membrane and do not fold correctly when expressed as soluble recombinant proteins. Correct folding is critical for PorA as SBA is elicited by conformational, and not linear, epitopes of the protein20. Previous attempts to use PorA peptides as vaccines have not been successful because they have not been sufficiently immunogenic and do not present the immunogenic portion of PorA in its correct conformation. Consequently, the only PorA-based vaccines under development are OMVs, which have limited efficacy in infants2, are reactogenic21, and poorly defined providing regulatory issues. OMVs as immunogens are not favoured because consistency and toxicity can be problematic during manufacture. For example, OMVs may contain toxic lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

Meningococcal factor H binding protein (fHbp) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein that consists of two β-barrels5 (Fig. 1A). The N-terminal β-barrel of fHbp has a relatively open structure, while the C-terminal β-barrel is stabilised by extensive hydrogen bonding between the seven β-strands, which form this barrel5.

Importantly, fHbp is a key antigen in vaccines against serogroup B Nm under development by pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, GSK, and others, and is included in next generation OMV vaccines6'7'8. The Pfizer vaccine consists of two fHbps, while the GSK vaccine has a single fHbp in a cocktail of other antigens which includes an OMV. fHbp binds human, but not murine, factor H (fH)9 10, an abundant plasma protein that down regulates the complement system1 1, a critical aspect of immunity against Nm12. Immunisation of adolescents and adults with fHbp elicits SBA13.

fHbp has been categorised into different schemes based on its predicted amino acid sequence. In the present application, three variant groups (vl , v2 and v37) and peptide numbers (www.ml st.org) are recognised. Importantly, serum raised against vl fHbp does not mediate SBA against Nm expressing v2 and v3 proteins, and vice versa. The GSK vaccine contains a single vl protein (vl . l), while the Pfizer formulation includes a vl and v3 fHbp13'14. Therefore no current vaccine includes a v2 fHbp even though between a significant proportion of disease in the UK is currently caused by strains expressing fHbp from this variant group3'15.

WO201 1024072 is a patent application that describes the use of fHbp which is selected or engineered to have a sequence which can elicit broad-spectrum bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a host animal. This document teaches that additional meningococcal antigens may be provided with the engineered fHbp in the form of a N- or C-terminal fusion protein. However, such a proposal is unlikely to produce a protein that would present the immunogenic portion of many meningococcal antigens, such as PorA, in correct conformation and they would not be sufficiently immunogenic.

An aim of the present invention is to provide an alternative and improved immunogenic molecules for vaccination against pathogenic organisms, particularly to prevent or reduce meningococcal or gonococcal infection or colonisation.

According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a modified factor H binding protein (fHbp), comprising fHbp, or a variant thereof, to act as a molecular scaffold by modification with the addition of at least one exogenous peptide loop from a different antigen.

It has been shown herein that immunogenic peptides, such as those from PorA, can be introduced into factor H binding protein (fHbp), which acts as a

molecular scaffold. The peptides that are introduced into fHbp are presented to the immune system and are able to elicit protective responses such as SBA. Advantageously, the fHbp molecule provides an ideal molecular scaffold for stable inclusion of peptide loops for the display of epitopes, particularly for epitopes that are difficult to stabilise and display in their native conformation, for example loops from integral OMPs such as PorA. This is in contrast to teachings such as in WO201 1024072, where simple N- or C- terminal fusions of fHbp and additional antigen would not solve inherent stability and solubility difficulties with some antigens. In particular, many OMPs, such as PorA, are difficult to express because of the insolubility of their membrane spanning domains. PorA has a 16-beta stranded barrel structure with the surface-exposed loops between strands 1 and 2 (loop 1), strands 7 and 8 (loop 4), strands 9 and 10 (loop 5) and strands 1 1 and 12 (loop 7) demonstrated to be the most effective antigens. fHbp contains two beta barrels, therefore the peptide loop sequences from OMPs can be inserted into the tips of the loops between betα-strands of fHbp to present the extra-cellular loop fragments from integral OMPs, in their native conformations for immunisation. Therefore, the modified fHbp scaffold molecule of the invention may be used as a prophylactic or a therapeutic vaccine directed to Nm or the gonococcus in which a single protein presents key epitopes from two different antigens.

In one embodiment, the fHbp is meningococcal fHbp. In another embodiment, the fHbp is gonococcal fHbp. The fHbp may comprise any one of variants vl , v2 and v3. In one embodiment, the fHbp may comprise fHbp vl . In another embodiment, the fHbp may comprise fHbp v2. In another embodiment, the fHbp may comprise fHbp v3.

In one embodiment, the fHbp variant vl may be variant vl . l , vl .13, vl . 14, vl .15, vl .4, or vl .55. In one embodiment, the fHbp variant vl may not be vl . l . In one embodiment, the fHbp variant vl may not be vl .55. In one embodiment, the fHbp variant vl may not be vl . l or vl .55. In one embodiment, the fHbp variant v2 may be variant v2. 16, v2. 19, v2.22, or v2.25. In one embodiment, the fHbp variant v3 may be variant v3.45. In one embodiment, the fHbp comprises any one of fHbp variants vl .4, v2.25 or v3.45.

A variant of fHbp may comprise an orthologue of fHbp. For example, a variant of fHbp may comprise Ghfp, the Gonococcal homologue of fHbp. Ghfp is nonfunctional and closely related to V3 fHbps (>95% aa identity, dissociation constant KD > 100 μΜ with factor H).

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQVYK QSHSALTAFQ TEQIQDSEHS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPEGGRA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTYTI DFAAKQGNGK IEHLKSPELN VDLAAADIKP DGKRHAVISG SVLYNQAEKG SYSLGIFGGK AQEVAGSAEV KTVNGIRHIG LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 1, fHbp VI .1 GI:316985482).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQVYK QSHSALTALQ TEQVQDSEHS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPEGGRA TYRGTAFGSD DASGKLTYTI DFAAKQGHGK IEHLKSPELN VDLAASDIKP DKKRHAVISG SVLYNQAEKG SYSLGIFGGQ AQEVAGSAEV ETANGIRHIG LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 2, fHbp Vl .4 GL989557230).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGKLIT LESGEFQVYK QSHSALTALQ TEQVQDSEDS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPKGGSA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTYTI DFAAKQGHGK IEHLKSPELN VELATAYIKP DEKRHAVISG SVLYNQDEKG SYSLGIFGGQ AQEVAGSAEV ETANGIHHIG LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 3, fHbp VI .13 GL752774533).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQVYK QSHSALTALQ TEQEQDPEHS GKMVAKRRFK IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPKDVMA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTYTI DFAAKQGHGK IEHLKSPELN VELATAYIKP DEKHHAVISG SVLYNQDEKG SYSLGIFGGQ AQEVAGSAEV ETANGIHHIG LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 4, fHbp V I .14 GI:630057376).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGSGG GGVAADIGAG LADALTAPLD HKDKGLKSLT LEDSISQNGT LTLSAQGAER TFKAGDKDNS LNTGKLKNDK ISRFDFIRQI EVDGQLITLE SGEFQVYKQS HSALTALQTE QVQDSEHSGK MVAKRQFRIG DIVGEHTSFG KLPKDVMATY RGTAFGSDDA GGKLTYTIDF AAKQGHGKIE HLKSPELNVD LAAADIKPDE KHHAVISGSV LYNQAEKGSY SLGIFGGQAQ EVAGSAEVET ANGIRHIGLA AKQ (SEQ ID NO: 5, fHbp VI .15 GL504394462).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGSGG GGVTADIGTG LADALTAPLD HKDKGLKSLT LEDSISQNGT LTLSAQGAEK TYGNGDSLNT GKLKNDKVSR FDFIRQIEVD GQLITLESGE FQVYKQSHSA LTALQTEQEQ DPEHSEKMVA KRRFRIGDIA GEHTSFDKLP KDVMATYRGT AFGSDDAGGK LTYTIDFAAK QGHGKIEHLK SPELNVDLAV AYIKPDEKHH AVISGSVLYN QDEKGSYSLG IFGEKAQEVA GSAEVETANG IHHIGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 6, fflbpV 1.55 GL40353481).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPDGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTYTID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELAAAELKAD

EKSHAVILGD TRYGSEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IGEKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 7, fHbp V2.16 GI:48815551 1).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTYTID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGGEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 8, fHbp V2.19 GL488148626).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD PNGRLHYSID FTKKQGYGRI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGGEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 9, fHbp V2.22 GI: 120865922).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TTPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQTIT LASGEFQIYK QNHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPDGKAE YHGKAFSSDD PNGRLHYSID FTKKQGYGRI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGGEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 10, fHbp 2.25 GL488158712).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLKNDKI SRFDFVQKIE VDGQTITLAS GEFQIYKQDH SAVVALQIEK INNPDKIDSL INQRSFLVSG LGGEHTAFNQ

LPSGKAEYHG KAFSSDDAGG KLTYTIDFAA KQGHGKIEHL KTPEQNVELA SAELKADEKS HAVILGDTRY GSEEKGTYHL ALFGDRAQEI AGSATVKIRE KVHEIGIAGK Q (SEQ ID NO: 1 1, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869).

In another embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence of CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LKSLTLEDSI SQNGTLTLSA QGAEKTFKVG DKDNSLNTGK LKNDKISRFD FVQKIEVDGQ TITLASGEFQ IYKQNHSAVV ALQIEKINNP DKIDSLINQR SFLVSGLGGE HTAFNQLPGG KAEYHGKAFS SDDAGGKLTY TIDFAAKQGH GKIEHLKTPE QNVELAAAEL KADEKSHAVI LGDTRYGSEE KGTYHLALFG DRAQEIAGSA TVKIGEKVHE ISIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 12, fHbp V3.47 GL284466897).

In another embodiment the Ghfp which is to be further modified with the at least one exogenous peptide loop, may comprise or consist of the sequence of

MTRSKPVNRT TFCCLSLTAG PDSDRLQQRR GGGGGVAADI GTGLADALTA PLDHKDKGLK SLTLEASIPQ NGTLTLSAQG AEKTFKAGGK DNSLNTGKLK NDKISRFDFV QKIEVDGQTI TLASGEFQIY KQDHSAVVAL RIEKINNPDK IDSLINQRSF LVSDLGGEHT AFNQLPDGKA EYHGKAFSSD DADGKLTYTI DFAAKQGHGK IEHLKTPEQN VELASAELKA DEKSHAVILG DTRYGGEEKG TYRLALFGDR AQEIAGSATV KIGEKVHEIG IADKQ (SEQ ID NO: 13, GHFP).

A variant of fHbp may comprise one or more amino acid residue mutations, including additions, deletions or substitutions, relative to wild type fHbp in addition to the exogenous peptide loop(s) provided on the modified fHbp. For example, the fHbp may act as a scaffold upon which exogenous peptide loops are provided and the variants relative to wild-type may comprise amino acid mutations in the scaffold framework in regions outside of the exogenous peptide loop(s) attachment points. Reference to wild-type fHbp may refer to any one of the variants of fHbp discussed herein, for example any one of SEQ ID NOs: 1 to 13).

A variant of fHbp may comprise at least one amino acid change compared to the amino acid in the wild type protein. A variant of fHbp may comprise no more than one amino acid change compared to the wild type protein. A variant of fHbp may comprise no more than three amino acid changes compared to the wild type protein. A variant of fHbp may comprise no more than four amino acid changes compared to the wild type protein. A variant of fHbp may comprise no more than five amino acid changes compared to the wild type protein. A variant of fHbp may comprise no more than six amino acid changes compared to the wild type protein. In one embodiment, a variant of fHbp is provided which comprises six amino acid mutations compared to the wild type protein.

Amino acid substitutions may be conservative substitutions. For example, a mutated residue may comprise substantially similar properties as the wild-type substituted residue. For example, a substituted residue may comprise substantially similar or equal charge or hydrophobicity as the wild-type substituted residue. For example, a substituted residue may comprise substantially similar molecular weight or steric bulk as the wild-type substituted residue.

In one embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 75% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 80% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 85% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 90% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 95% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 98% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 99% identity with wild-type. In another embodiment a variant fHbp may have at least 99.5% identity with wild-type. The above percentage variation is not intended to include percentage identity variation with addition of the exogenous peptide loop(s) (i.e. it is the percentage identity of the fHbp component alone relative to the wild-type), and does not include deletion of fHbp sequence at the site where loops from other proteins are inserted.

The modified fHbp may be modified such that it is not capable of binding factor H, or at least has reduced factor H binding activity. The modified fHbp may be non-functional relative to the function of wild-type fHbp. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp has an impaired capacity to bind CFH with a KD >2 orders of magnitude compared with the wild-type protein. Non-functional fHbps may be provided by mutation of the fHbp sequence. In one embodiment, nonfunctional fHbps may be provided by one or more of the exogenous peptide loops preventing the binding site of factor H.

The amino acid residue mutation(s) may prevent or reduce complement factor H binding of the modified fHbp. In another embodiment, the amino acid residue mutation(s) may not substantially affect the fHbp function. In one embodiment, the amino acid residue mutation(s) in the fHbp, or variants thereof, may be selected from the group consisting of the amino acid at position 85, 133, 134, 135, 136, 204, 206, 21 1 , 212, 213, 222, 225, 227, 23 1 , and 252 on vl . l fHbp or corresponding position in other fHbps.

In one embodiment, the amino acid residue mutation(s) may comprise or consist of a substitution to alanine instead of the wild type residue. In one embodiment, the amino acid residue change(s) may comprise or consist of a substitution to any other amino acid instead of the wild type residue.

Advantageously, providing a non-functional fHbp (i.e. non- or less- binding of factor H) can eliminate or reduce any adverse effects of factor H recruitment on the success of the vaccine.

In one embodiment, the amino acid residue mutation(s) may enhance the stability of the modified fHbp in particular, in an embodiment wherein fHbp V2 is provided, the fHbp V2 may be stabilised by mutations in the fHbp V2 sequence. Details of the mutations for V2 stability may be found in WO2014030003, which is herein incorporated by reference. For example, the amino acid substitution for stabilisation may be at one or more of the amino

acids at position 35, 36, 42, 43, 46, 107, 1 12, 1 14, 137 and 138 in fHbp V2. The substitution for stabilisation may be at one or more of Ser35, Leu36, Asp42, Glu43, Arg46, Asp l 07, Vai l 12, Leul H, Serl 37, and Gly l 38.

In one embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s) is immunogenic. The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be derived from an outer membrane/surface exposed protein.

The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be prokaryotic in origin. The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be derived from a protein on the bacterium, such as an outer membrane protein (OMP) of a pathogen. The OMP may be an integral OMP or a lipoprotein. The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be derived from a meningococcal protein, such as a meningococcal outer membrane protein. The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be derived from an outer membrane protein of another pathogen such as N. gonorrhoeae.

The exogenous peptide loop may comprise a fragment of a transmembrane beta barrel protein. The exogenous peptide loop may comprise a fragment of a beta barrel porin protein. The exogenous peptide loop may comprise a fragment of PorA. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop may comprise a fragment of FetA.

The exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be 16 amino acids in length. In one embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be between 8 and 20 amino acids in length. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be between 8 and 16 amino acids in length. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be between 10 and 16 amino acids in length. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be between 12 and 16 amino acids in length. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be between 14 and 18 amino acids in length. In another embodiment, the

exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragment, may be any length sufficient to provide an immunogenic epitope. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop(s), such as PorA fragments, may be any length sufficient to provide an immunogenic epitope and maintain native conformation relative to the fragment in wild-type.

The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be selected from any one of the PorA loops

I to 7, or fragments thereof; and/or combinations thereof. The exogenous peptide loop(s) may be selected from any one of the PorA loops of loop 1 (from between beta-strands 1 and 2), loop 4 (from between beta-strands 7 and 8), loop 5 (from between beta-strands 9 and 10) and loop 7 (from between beta-strands

I I and 12; or fragments thereof; and/or combinations thereof.

The exogenous peptide loop may comprise any one peptide selected from PorA loop 1 (between beta-strands 1 and 2); loop 4 (between beta-barrels 7 and 8); and loop 5 (between beta-strands 9 and 10); or fragments thereof; and/or combinations thereof.

The exogenous peptide loop may comprise PorA loop 1 (between beta-barrels 1 and 2), or a fragment thereof. The exogenous peptide loop may comprise PorA loop 4 (between beta-strands 7 and 8), or a fragment thereof. The exogenous peptide loop may comprise PorA loop 5 (between beta-strands 9 and 10), or a fragment thereof.

The skilled person will understand that variant sequences of PorA loops may be provided with minor mutations relative to wild-type and may still function as an epitope. Therefore, the exogenous peptide loop(s) may comprise PorA loop variants. Variants may include one or more amino acid additions, deletions or substitutions relative to the wild-type sequence. In another embodiment, variants may include no more than one amino acid addition, deletion or substitution relative to the wild-type sequence. In another embodiment, variants may include no more than 2, 3, 4 or 5 amino acid additions, deletions or

substitutions relative to the wild-type sequence. The substitutions may be conservative substitutions. For example, providing an alternative amino acid residue having substantially similar properties, such as charge, hydrophobicity, steric size or molecular weight. Variants may include sequences having at least 85% sequence identity with wild-type PorA loop sequence. In another embodiment, variants may include sequences having at least 90%, 95%, 98%, 99%), or 99.5% sequence identity with wild-type PorA loop sequence.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise two or more exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise three or more exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 1 and 7 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 1 and 5 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 1 and 3 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 2 and 7 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 3 and 7 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 2 and 5 exogenous peptide loops. In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise between 3 and 5 exogenous peptide loops. The modified fHbp, or variants thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least one position. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least two positions. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least three positions. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least four positions. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least five positions. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least six positions. The modified fHbp, or variant thereof, may be modified with an exogenous peptide loop in at least seven positions.

A peptide loop may be provided (for example using fHbp as a scaffold) between two beta sheets of the factor H binding protein. The peptide loop may be inserted into fHbp, or a variant thereof, at one or more of amino acid positions selected from positions where exogenous peptide loops, such as PorA loops, can be inserted (range is inclusive of all residues in loop) between amino acids 49-54, 83-88, 1 14- 124, 199-206, 227-233, and 240-246 of vl . l fHbp or corresponding positions in other fHbps.

The at least one exogenous peptide loop may not be provided as an N- or C-terminal fusion.

Sequences of fHbp into which the exogenous peptide loop(s) can be inserted may be at any of those positions underlined with regards to fHbp Vl . l primary amino acid sequence below. In an embodiment using an alternative variant fHBP, the insert sites may be at equivalent positions.

Position 1 in fHbp (P I), residues 83-88

P2, residues 199-206

P3, residues 227-233

P4, residues 49-54

P5, residues 1 14- 124

P7, residues 240-246

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA

P 4

QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFI R Q IEVDGQL IT LE SGE FQVYK

P 4 P I

101 QSHSALTAFQ TEQ IQDSEHS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHT S FDKLPEGGRA

P5

151 TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKL Y I DFAAKQGNGK IEHLKSPELN VDLAAADI KP

P2

2 01 DGKRHAVI SG SVLYNQAEKG SY SLGI FGGK AQE VAGSAEV KTVNGIRHIG

P2 P3 P7

251 LAAKQ ( SEQ I D NO : 14 )

In one embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position 1 in fHbp (P I), residues 83-88 (Sequence EVDGQL (SEQ ID NO: 15)). In another embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position P2, residues 199-206 (Sequence KPDGKRHA (SEQ ID NO: 16)). In another embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position P3, residues 227-233 (Sequence FGGKAQE (SEQ ID NO: 17)). In another embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position P4, residues 49-54 (Sequence AAQGAE (SEQ ID NO : 18)). In another embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position P5, residues 1 14- 124 (Sequence IQDSEHSGKM (SEQ ID NO: 19)). In another embodiment, the insert site of an exogenous peptide loop may be at position P7, residues 240-246 (Sequence KTVNGI (SEQ ID NO: 20)).

The exogenous peptide loop insert site at any given position 1 -7 may be between any of the residues identified at positions 1 to 7 of fHbp. Alternatively, The exogenous peptide loop insert site at any given position 1 -7 may be before the first residue or after the last residue identified at positions 1 to 7 of fHbp. For example if the exogenous peptide loop is inserted at position 4, the insert may be * AAQGAE (SEQ ID NO: 21), A*AQGAE (SEQ ID NO: 22), AA*QGAE (SEQ ID NO: 23), AAQ*GAE (SEQ ID NO: 24), AAQG*AE (SEQ ID NO: 25), AAQGA*E (SEQ ID NO: 26), or AAQGAE* (SEQ ID NO: 27), where * denotes the insert site.

In another embodiment, the skilled person will understand that the exogenous peptide loop insertion site may be variable such that between 1 and 5 residues in the region of the insertion site may be removed from fHbp (e.g. replaced by the loop) without significantly affecting the fHbp structure. In one embodiment, one or more of the amino acid residues at the identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. In an alternative embodiment, two, three, four, five or more of the amino acid residues at the

identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop insertion site may be variable such that between 1 and 3 residues in the region of the insertion site may be removed from fHbp (e.g. replaced by the loop) without significantly affecting the fHbp structure. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop insertion site may be variable such that 1 or 2 residues in the region of the insertion site may be removed from fHbp (e.g. replaced by the loop) without significantly affecting the fHbp structure. In another embodiment, the exogenous peptide loop insertion site may be variable such that 1 residue in the region of the insertion site may be removed from fHbp (e.g. replaced by the loop) without significantly affecting the fHbp structure. For example, where an insertion site is amino acid residue 86 at one end of the loop and residue 87 at the other end of the loop, a variant can include a 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 residue replacement with the loop in the region of the stated insertion site. In an alternative embodiment, six or more of the amino acid residues at the identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. In an alternative embodiment, seven or more (where applicable) of the amino acid residues at the identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. In an alternative embodiment, eight or more (where applicable) of the amino acid residues at the identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. In an alternative embodiment, nine or more (where applicable) of the amino acid residues at the identified positions are replaced/substituted by an exogenous peptide loop. The entire amino acid residues of any of insert positions 1 to 7 may be substituted with an exogenous peptide loop.

For example if the exogenous peptide loop is inserted at position 4 and substitutes one or more residues, the insert may be A*QGAE (SEQ ID NO : 28), AA*GAE (SEQ ID NO: 29), AA*AE (SEQ ID NO: 30), AA*E (SEQ ID NO: 3 1), AA*, A*GAE (SEQ ID NO : 32), A*AE (SEQ ID NO: 33), AA*E (SEQ ID NO: 34), A*E, A*, *AQGAE (SEQ ID NO : 35), *QGAE (SEQ ID NO : 36), *GAE (SEQ ID NO: 37), *AE, *E, AAQ*AE (SEQ ID NO: 38), AAQ*E (SEQ

ID NO: 39), AAQ* (SEQ ID NO: 40), AAQG*E (SEQ ID NO: 41), AAQG* (SEQ ID NO : 42), AAQGA* (SEQ ID NO : 43), where * denotes the insert site, and one or more residues are removed from the original sequence.

The skilled person will understand that equivalent combinations of insertion sites and/or substitutions with the exogenous peptide loop may be made with alternative sequences of the other identified insert positions 1 to 7.

In one embodiment, the region of the insertion site may be shifted +/- 5 residues up or downstream of any the positions 1 to 7. Alternatively, the region of the insertion site may be shifted +/- 4 residues up or downstream of any the positions 1 to 7. Alternatively, the region of the insertion site may be shifted +/- 3 residues up or downstream of any the positions 1 to 7. Alternatively, the region of the insertion site may be shifted +/- 2 residues up or downstream of any the positions 1 to 7. Alternatively, the region of the insertion site may be shifted +/- 1 residue up or downstream of any the positions 1 to 7.

Additionally or alternatively, the peptide loop(s) may be provided in a position that sterically prevents fHbp:CFH interaction. These include an exogenous peptide loop inserted into any one or more site between residues 1 14- 124, 199-206, or 240-246 (e.g. Positions 2, 5 and 7), underlined on VI primary sequence below:

1 CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA

5 1 QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFI R QI EVDGQL IT LESGE FQVYK

101 QSHSALTAFQ TEQ IQDSEHS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHT S FDKLPEGGRA

151 TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTY I DFAAKQGNGK IEHLKSPELN VDLAAADI KP

2 01 DGKRHAVI SG SVLYNQAEKG SY SLGI FGGK AQE VAGSAE V KTVNGIRHIG

251 LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 44)

In one embodiment of the invention, the modified fHbp is immunogenic. Th modified fHbp may be a recombinant protein. The modified fHbp may be fusion protein, such as a recombinant fusion protein. The modified fHbp may b an isolated modified fHbp molecule. The modified fHbp molecule of the invention may be described as a single protein, multi-valent vaccine. The modified fHbp could be included in an OMV vaccine.

In embodiments where more than one exogenous peptide loop is inserted into fHbp, or variants thereof, the exogenous peptide loops may be the same, e.g. the same sequence, or substantially similar. For example, some epitopes such as PorA epitopes, may not elicit sufficient functional responses when displayed singly on fHbp. In this instance, the present invention may be used to provide the same epitope at multiple sites on the same modified fHbp molecule, thereby enhancing the immunogenic recognition of the epitope.

Alternatively, the exogenous peptide loops may be different relative to each other. For example, where the exogenous peptide loops are derived from a single protein, such as PorA, the different exogenous peptide loops may be from distinct regions of the protein, such as PorA. In one embodiment, the different exogenous peptide loops may be derived from overlapping and distinct regions of the protein, such as PorA.

In embodiments where more than one exogenous peptide loop is inserted into fHbp, or variants thereof, the exogenous peptide loops may be derived from different species or strains. For example, when a multivalent vaccine is desired for multiple different antigens including different organisms.

The PorA peptide loop sequence may be selected from any of the sequences provided in Table 1 (e.g. any of SEQ ID NOs: 45 to 79). Combinations of different PorA sequences of Table 1 may be provided (one loop per site) in any of insertion sites P I to P7 described herein. Additionally or alternatively, two or more of the same PorA sequences of Table 1 may be provided (one loop per site) in any of insertion sites P I to P7 described herein.

Table 1 : sequences of PorA VR2 loops, any of which may be inserted into any variant of fHbp to make a chimeric fHbp-PorA protein.

The skilled person will understand that variants involving one or two or more amino acid substitutions, additions or deletions may be provided for the PorA sequences of Table 1 without substantially removing the immunogenic function. Substitutions may be to similar amino acid residues, for example having similar MW, charge, hydrophobicity or moieties, or synthetic analogues. The skilled person will further understand that variants may be truncations of the PorA sequences of Table 1 , wherein the truncated variants provide sufficient amino acid residues to form a recognisable epitope. In one embodiment the PorA sequence has at least 80% identity to any one of the sequences in Table 1. In another embodiment the PorA sequence has at least 85% identity to any one of the sequences in Table 1. In another embodiment the PorA sequence has at least 90% identity to any one of the sequences in Table 1. In another embodiment the PorA sequence has at least 95% identity to any one of the sequences in Table 1. In another embodiment the PorA sequence has at least 98% identity to any one of the sequences in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 81 , fHbp VI .4 GL989557230), wherein the sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 82, fHbp VI .13 GL752774533), wherein the sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

LAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 83, fHbp VI .14 GL630057376), wherein the sequence of

any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGSGG GGVAADIGAG LADALTAPLD HKDKGLKSLT LEDSISQNGT

| J )

sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGSGG GGVTADIGTG LADALTAPLD HKDKGLKSLT LEDSISQNGT

of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 86, fHbp V2.16 GL48815551 1), wherein the sequence of any

PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 87, fHbp V2.19 GI:488148626), wherein the sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 88, fHbp V2.22 GI: 120865922), wherein the sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 89, fHbp 2.25 GL488158712), wherein the sequence of any

PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL

sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

In one embodiment, the fHbp which is to be further modified with an exogenous peptide loop may comprise or consist of the sequence:

ISIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 91, fHbp V3.47 GI:284466897), wherein the sequence of any PorA VR2 loop in Table 1 may replace any amino acid or groups of amino acids highlighted by a box.

The modified fHbp may comprise the sequence of any one of SEQ ID NOs: 92 to 109.

The modified fHbp may comprise the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 92 to 109, wherein the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any VR2 loop sequence provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEK YGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR Q IEVDYYTKDT NNNLTLVPQL ITLE SGE FQV YKQSHSALTA FQTEQ IQDSE HSGKMVAKRQ FRIGDIAGEH T S FDKLPEGG RATYRGTAFG SDDAGGKLTY T IDFAAKQGN GKI EHLKS PE LNVDLAAADI KPDGKRHAVI SGSVLYNQAE KGSYSLGI FG GKAQE VAGSA EVKTVNGI RH IGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 92, fHbp VI .1 GI:316985482, PorA VR2 P I .16 in P I), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDS I SQNGTL

TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLKNDKI SRFDFVQKIE VDYYTKDTNN NLTLVPQT IT LASGE FQ IYK QDHSAVVALQ I EKINNPDKI DSL INQRS FL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFS SDD AGGKLTYT I D FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGSEEKGT YHLAL FGDRA QE I AGSATVK I REKVHE IGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 93 fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 P I . 16 in P I), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA

QGAEK YGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDYYTKD TNNNLTLVPQ LITLESGEFQ IYKQDHSAVV ALQIEKINNP DKIDSLINQR SFLVSGLGGE

HTAFNQLPSG KAEYHGKAFS SDDAGGKLTY TIDFAAKQGH GKIEHLKTPE

QNVELASAEL KADEKSHAVI LGDTRYGGEE KGTYHLALFG DRAQEIAGSA

TVKIREKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 94, fHbp V2.19 GL488148626, PorA VR2 PI.16 in

PI), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKT YGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQVYK

QSHSALTAFQ TEQIQDSEHS GKMVAKRQFR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPEGGRA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTYTI DFAAKQGNGK IEHLKSPELN VDLAAADIKP DYYTKDTNNN LTLVPKRHAV ISGSVLYNQA EKGSYSLGI F GGKAQEVAGS AEVKTVNGIR HIGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 95, fHbp Vl.l GI:316985482, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P2), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

C CSSSSGGSSGGSSGGGGGG G GVVAAAADDIIGGTTGGLL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLKNDKI SRFDFVQKIE VDGQTITLAS GEFQIYKQDH SAVVALQIEK INNPDKIDSL INQRSFLVSG LGGEHTAFNQ LPSGKAEYHG KAFSSDDAGG KLTYTIDFAA KQGHGKIEHL KTPEQ VELA SAELKADYYT KDTNNNLTLV PKSHAVILGD TRYGSEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 96, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P2), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTYTID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD YYTKDTNNNL TLVPKSHAVI LGDTRYGGEE KGTYHLALFG DRAQEIAGSA

TVKIREKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 97, fHbp V2.19 GL488148626, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P2), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR Q IEVDGQL IT LESGE FQVYK QSHSALTAFQ TEQ IQDSEHS GKMVAKRQ FR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPEGGRA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLTYT I DFAAKQGNGK I EHLKS PELN VDLAAADI KP DGKRHAVI SG SVLYNQAEKG SYSLGI FGYY TKDTNNNLTL VPKAQEVAGS

AEVKTVNGIR H IGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 98, fHbp Vl . l GI:316985482, PorA VR2

P I .16 in P3), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLK DKI SRFDFVQKIE VDGQTITLAS GEFQIYKQDH SAVVALQIEK INNPDKIDSL INQRSFLVSG LGGEHTAFNQ LPSGKAEYHG KAFSSDDAGG KLTYTIDFAA KQGHGKIEHL K PEQ VELA SAELKADEKS HAVILGDTRY GSEEKGTYHL ALFGYYTKDT NNNLTLVPRA

QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 99, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P3), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLK DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTYTID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGGEEKGT YHLALFGYYT KDTNNNLTLV PRAQEIAGSA

TVKIREKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 100, fHbp V2.19 GI:488148626, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P3), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QYYTKDTNNN LTLVPAEKTY GNGDSLNTGK LK DKVSRFD FIRQIEVDGQ LITLESGEFQ VYKQSHSALT AFQTEQIQDS EHSGKMVAKR QFRIGDIAGE HTSFDKLPEG GRATYRGTAF GSDDAGGKLT YTIDFAAKQG NGKIEHLKSP ELNVDLAAAD IKPDGKRHAV ISGSVLYNQA EKGSYSLGI F GGKAQEVAGS

AEVKTVNGIR HIGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 101, fHbp VI.1 GI:316985482, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P4), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL TLSAQYYTKD TNNNLTLVPA EKTFKVGDKD NSLNTGKLKN DKISRFDFVQ KIEVDGQTIT LASGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTY ID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGSEEKGT YHLALFGDRA

QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 102, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P4), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QQYYYYTTKKDDTTNNNNNN LLTTLLVVPPAAEEKKTTYY GNGDSLNTGK LKNDKVSRFD FIRQIEVDGQ LITLESGEFQ IYKQDHSAVV ALQIEKINNP DKIDSLINQR SFLVSGLGGE HTAFNQLPSG KAEYHGKAFS SDDAGGKLTY TIDFAAKQGH GKIEHLKTPE QNVELASAEL KADEKSHAVI LGDTRYGGEE KGTYHLALFG DRAQEIAGSA

TVKIREKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 103, fHbp V2.19 GI:488148626, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P4), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

C CSSSSGGGGGGGGVVAAAA D DIIGGAAGGLLAADDAALL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQVYK QSHSALTAFQ TEQIQDSYYT KDTNNNLTLV PHSGKMVAKR QFRIGDIAGE HTSFDKLPEG GRATYRGTAF GSDDAGGKLT YTIDFAAKQG NGKIEHLKSP ELNVDLAAAD IKPDGKRHAV ISGSVLYNQA EKGSYSLGIF GGKAQEVAGS AEVKTVNGIR HIGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 104, fHbp VI.1 GI:316985482, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P5), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLKNDKI SRFDFVQKIE VDGQTITLAS

GEFQIYKQDH SAVVALQIEK INNPYYTKDT NNNLTLVPKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTY ID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGSEEKGT YHLALFGDRA

QEIAGSATVK IREKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 105, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P5), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA

QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLK DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK

QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPYYT KDTNNNLTLV PKIDSLINQR SFLVSGLGGE

HTAFNQLPSG KAEYHGKAFS SDDAGGKLTY TIDFAAKQGH GKIEHLKTPE

QNVELASAEL KADEKSHAVI LGDTRYGGEE KGTYHLALFG DRAQEIAGSA TVKIREKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 106, fHbp V2.19 GI:488148626, PorA VR2 PI .16 in

P5), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO:

68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKG LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLKN DKVSRFDFIR Q IEVDGQL IT LESGE FQVYK QSHSALTAFQ TEQ IQDSEHS GKMVAKRQ FR IGDIAGEHTS FDKLPEGGRA TYRGTAFGSD DAGGKLT YT I DFAAKQGNGK I EHLKS PELN VDLAAADI KP DGKRHAVI SG SVLYNQAEKG SYSLGI FGGK AQE VAGSAEV KTVYYTKDTN NNLTLVPGI R H IGLAAKQ (SEQ ID NO: 107, fHbp VI .1 GI:316985482, PorA VR2 P I .16 in P7), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGSGSGGG GVAADIGTGL ADALTAPLDH KDKGLKSLTL EDSISQNGTL

TLSAQGAEKT FKVGDKDNSL NTGKLKNDKI SRFDFVQKIE VDGQTITLAS

GEFQIYKQDH SAVVALQIEK INNPDKIDSL INQRSFLVSG LGGEHTAFNQ LPSGKAEYHG KAFSSDDAGG KLTYTIDFAA KQGHGKIEHL KTPEQNVELA

SAELKADEKS HAVILGDTRY GSEEKGTYHL ALFGDRAQEI AGSATVKIRY

YTKDTNNNLT LVPKVHEIGI AGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 108, fHbp V3.45 GL284466869, PorA VR2 PI.16 in P7), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

In one embodiment, the modified fHbp may comprise or consist of the sequence:

CSSGGGGVAA DIGAGLADAL TAPLDHKDKS LQSLTLDQSV RKNEKLKLAA QGAEKTYGNG DSLNTGKLK DKVSRFDFIR QIEVDGQLIT LESGEFQIYK QDHSAVVALQ IEKINNPDKI DSLINQRSFL VSGLGGEHTA FNQLPSGKAE YHGKAFSSDD AGGKLTY ID FAAKQGHGKI EHLKTPEQNV ELASAELKAD EKSHAVILGD TRYGGEEKGT YHLALFGDRA QEIAGSATVK IRYYTKDTNN

NLTLVPKVHE IGIAGKQ (SEQ ID NO: 109, fHbp V2.19 GI:488148626, PorA VR2 PI .16 in P7), or the same sequence whereby the sequence YYTKDTNNNLTLVP (SEQ ID NO: 68) is replaced by any PorA VR2 loop sequence, for example any PorA loop sequence as provided in Table 1.

The skilled person will understand that one, two, three or four or more amino acid substitutions, deletions or additions may be made to the modified fHbp of the invention herein without substantially removing its immunogenic function or affecting stability. Substitutions may be to similar amino acid residues, for example having similar MW, charge, hydrophobicity or moieties, or synthetic analogues. Such modifications are envisaged as part of the invention. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 75% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 80% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 85% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 90% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 95% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 98% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein. In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 99% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein.

In one embodiment the modified fHbp may have at least 99.5% identity with any one of the modified fHbp described herein.

According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided a nucleic acid encoding essentially or at least the modified fHbp according to the invention herein.

The nucleic acid may be in a vector, such as a viral vector.

According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided a composition comprising the modified fHbp according the invention herein.

The composition may comprise two or more different modified fHbp molecules (e.g. different forms/species thereof) according to the invention herein. For example, the composition may comprise two or more different variants of the modified fHbp according to the invention. For example, the composition may comprise fHbp variants vl and v2. The composition may comprise fHbp variants v2 and v3. In another embodiment, the composition comprises at least fHbp variant v2.

According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided a composition comprising the nucleic acid according the invention herein.

The composition may comprise a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier. The composition may further comprise an adjuvant.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a modified fHbp, nucleic acid, or composition according to the invention, for use as a medicament.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a modified fHbp, nucleic acid, or composition according to the invention, for use in the treatment or prevention of a pathogenic infection or colonisation of a subj ect.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of treatment or prevention of a pathogenic infection or colonisation of a subj ect, comprising the administration of a modified fHbp, nucleic acid, or composition according to the invention to the subj ect.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of vaccination, comprising the administration of a modified fHbp, nucleic acid, or composition according to the invention to a subj ect.

The administration may be provided in a therapeutically effective amount. A skilled person will be capable of determining an appropriate dosage and repetitions for administration.

The subj ect may be mammalian, such as human.

The infection may be a bacterial infection. For example, the infection may be meningitis, such as Neisseria meningitidis, or Neisseria gonorrhoeae .

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a single protein, multi-valent vaccine comprising the modified factor H binding protein (fHbp) according to the invention.

The vaccine may be used as a prophylactic or a therapeutic vaccine directed to Nm.

The use may be with a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier. Additionally or alternatively, the use may be with an adjuvant. Suitable pharmaceutically acceptable carriers and adjuvants are well known to the skilled person.

According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a combination of the modified fHbp according to the invention and at least one other prophylactically or therapeutically active molecule.

The at least one other prophylactically or therapeutically active molecule may comprise a vaccine or antigen different to the modified fHbp according to the invention herein. The combination may be used in a combination vaccine or therapy. For example, the combination may be used in a combination vaccine or therapy where another meningococcal antigen is provided.

In one embodiment, the at least one other prophylactically or therapeutically active molecule comprises a monovalent proteinxapsule polysaccharide vaccine. The monovalent proteinxapsule polysaccharide vaccine may comprise any of serogroup C or A capsule with bacterial toxoids, bi-valent vaccines (with serogroup C and A capsular polysaccharide conjugated to bacterial toxoids), quadri- (serogroups A, C, Y, W) or penta- (A, C, Y, W, X) valent conjugate vaccines.

Alternatively, the at least one other prophylactically or therapeutically active molecule may comprise a conjugate vaccine, wherein antigen(s) comprising the fHbp scaffold bearing exogenous peptide loops (such as PorA loops) may be incorporated as the protein carrier molecule in the conjugate vaccine. The conjugate vaccine may comprise any of serogroup capsular polysaccharides from A, C, Y, W, or X strains individually or in combination.

According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided the use of factor H binding protein (fHbp) as an epitope display scaffold.

The use as an epitope display scaffold may comprise the use of a factor H binding protein (fHbp) comprising any of the modifications described herein.

In addition to their potential use as vaccines, compositions or modified fHbps according to the invention may be useful as diagnostic reagents and as a measure of the immune competence of a vaccine.

The term "immunogenic" means that the molecule is capable of eliciting an immune response in a human or animal body. The immune response may be protective.

The immune response elicited by the modified fHbp of the invention may affect the ability of Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) to infect a subj ect immunised with the modified fHbp of the invention. Preferably, the ability of Nm to infect a subj ect immunised with the modified fHbp of the invention is impeded or prevented. The immune response elicited may recognise and destroy Nm.

Alternatively or additionally, the immune response elicited may impede or prevent replication of Nm. Alternatively or additionally, the immune response elicited may impede or prevent Nm causing disease in the human or non-human animal.

The term "peptide loop" used herein is intended to refer to a single chain polypeptide sequence anchored at both ends (e.g. anchored to a scaffold such as fHbp). The term "loop" does not infer or require any particular secondary structure adopted by the polypeptide.

The term "exogenous" used in the context of "exogenous peptide loop" is understood to mean that the peptide loop is derived from a different source relative to the fHbp protein (i.e. it is not fHbp or a fragment thereof). However, it may be from the same organism as the fHbp. For example a modified fHbp may include an N meningitidis fHbp modified with (exogenous) peptide loop(s) derived from N. meningitidis PorA.

The term "fusion protein" used herein is understood to mean a polypeptide comprising a combination of sequences from different gene products or sources.

Term "fusion protein" may be used interchangeably with the term "chimeric molecule".

Reference to sequence "identity" used herein may refer to the percentage identity between two aligned sequences using standard NCBI BLASTp parameters (http://blast.ncbi .nlm . nih . gov).

The term "isolated", when applied to the modified fHbp of the present invention means a protein: (i) encoded by nucleic acids using recombinant DNA methods or a viral vector; or (ii) synthesized by, for example, chemical synthetic methods; or (iii) separated from biological materials, and then purified. An isolated polypeptide of the invention includes a protein expressed from a nucleotide sequence encoding the protein, or from a recombinant vector containing a nucleotide sequence encoding the protein.

The term "protective" means prevention of a disease, a reduced risk of disease infection, transmission and/or progression, reduced severity of disease, a cure of a condition or disease, an alleviation of symptoms, or a reduction in severity of a disease or disease symptoms.

The term "prophylaxis" means prevention of or protective treatment for a disease. The prophylaxis may include a reduced risk of infection, transmission and/or progression, or reduced severity of disease.

The term "treatment", means a cure of a condition or disease, an alleviation of symptoms, or a reduction in severity of a disease or disease symptoms.

The skilled person will understand that optional features of one embodiment or aspect of the invention may be applicable, where appropriate, to other embodiments or aspects of the invention.

Embodiments of the invention will now be described in more detail, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings.

Figure 1 Design of chimeric fHbp:PorAs

(A) Schematic of the surface of N. meningitidis, showing the pre-dominant outer membrane features, lipo-oligosaccharide and type 4 pili, and the important antigens, fHbp and PorA. The immunogenic PorA VR2 loop is highlighted and fHbp is shown interacting with domains 6 and 7 of human CFH.

(B) Structure of VI fHbp with CFH domains 6-7 showing the six positions (P l-5, and P7) used to generate chimeric fHbp:PorAs into which we have inserted PorA loops. N.B. position 5 is in the fHbp:CFH interface.

Figure 2: Use of fHbp as a molecular scaffold

A) Protein structure of fHbp VI .1 (grey, ribbon representation) with the six positions (P l-5, and P7) used to generate chimeric fHbp:PorAs. B) Secondary structure of fHbp V l . l (grey, arrows represent β-sheets, rectangles represent α- helices). Locations of the VR2 P I .16 PorA insertion sites are indicated by solid black lines, numbers indicate the residue range that the PorA VR2 loops may be inserted (corresponds with residue numbers in ID). C) Analysis of purified fHbp:PorAs with the PorA P I .16 VR2 loop in positions 1-5 or 7 of fHbp, the wild-type (WT Vl . l) by SDS-PAGE and Western blot. Blots were probed with α-Vl fHbp pAb and an α-P 1.16 mAb. D) Primary sequence (SEQ ID NO: 1) of Vl . l fHbp indicating the locations (underlined) of positions 1-5 and 7 into which loops from other proteins can be inserted.

Figure 3 Characterisation of chimeric fHbp:PorAs

(A) Structure of fHbp:PorAs overlaid with the P I .16 loop (black, PDBID: 2mpa) with the Fab of the α-P 1.16 mAb and fHbp:PorAs with the loop in position 1, position 3 and position 7, demonstrating that the epitope is in a conformation recognised by a bactericidal antibody.

(B) Stability of fHbp N-terminal (NT) and C-terminal (CT) beta-barrels of fHbps by Differential Scanning Calorimetry analysis performed using a 20- 120°C temperature gradient. Melting temperature is shown for the fHbp N-terminal (NTTM) and C-terminal (CTTM) barrels. Binding fHbp:PorAs to

Complement Factor H (CFH) and mAbs SPR analysis of fHbp and chimeric fHbp:PorAs coupled to a BIAcore CM5 chip. CFH (fH67) was flowed over at a dilution range of 0.5-32 nM, and the dissociation constant (KD) calculated; dissociation constants (KDs) for fHbp:PorAs confirms lack of CFH binding of fHbp with a loop in position 5 which impinges on the fHbp:CFH interface (Fig. 2A). NB = Non-binding.

Figure 4 Repertoire of antigens selected for chimeric fHbp:PorAs

(A, B) Frequency of fHbp variants and PorA VR2 subtypes, respectively, in N. meningitidis disease isolates in the UK between 2010-2015 from the Meningitis Research Foundation Genome Library

(http://www.meningitis.org/research/genome), shown as Pie Charts (above) and Tables (below) with the frequency of specific fHbps and PorAs.

Ν.Β. V2 fHbp accounts for 38.9% of isolates.

Table 2. Exact sequence matches for all N. meningitidis UK isolates between 2009-2015 :

Exact sequence match

- Pfizer vaccine, 3.02%

- Bexsero fHbp (VI . 1) or PorA (P I . 16), 15.86%

- Chimeric fHbp:PorAs, fHbp or PorA, 72%

(23.5% with fHbp AND PorA)

Figure 5 Recognition of Neisseria meningitidis fHbp (A) and PorA (B) antigens by mouse immune sera. Whole cell lysates from Neisseria meningitidis strains H44/76 (WT), H44/67 AfHbp and H44/67 ΔΡΟΓΑ, were separated by SDS-PAGE, transferred to a PVDF membrane and probed with mouse immune sera. Mouse immune sera were obtained by immunising BalbC mice three times with 20 μg of purified fHbp-PorA chimeras with VR2 loops in P I, P2, P4, P5 or P7.

Figure 6 Stabilisation of V2 fHbp: construction and immunogenicity of fHbp:PorAs

(A) Stabilisation of V2 fHbp V2.22 and V2.25 with six (M6) or two (M2) a.a. substitutions. DSC analysis was performed with 20 μΜ of protein, using a 20-120°C temperature gradient. Melting temperature is recorded for the fHbp N-terminal (NTTM) and C-terminal barrels (CTTM)- (B) Chimeric fHbp:PorAs PorA loops are recognised by corresponding mAbs. PorA VR2 loops from P I .2, P I .4, P I .9, P I .14 and P I .15 were inserted into position 1 of V2.25 fHbp. SDS-PAGE and Western blot analysis of purified wild type V2.25 fHbp and V3.45 fHbp-PorA chimeras. Western blots were probed with fHbp V2.25 pAbs and loop specific PorA mAbs (NIBSC). CFH binding was detected by far Western blot analysis with normal human sera and CFH pAbs.

Figure 7 Chimeric fHbp:PorAs elicit protective immunity. Mice were immunised with chimeric fHbp:PorA i.e. P(l)(l)( 13), P(2)(l)(13), and P(3)(l)(13) on three occasions, and SBAs measured against the strains indicated; an SB A > 8 is considered protective. The lack of PorA-directed SB A (i.e. SBA 0, against the fHbp mutant) with VR2 loop in position 3 i.e. P(3)(l)(13) is likely because the loop does not protrude from fHbp barrel as far as in pos. 1.

Figure 8. Frequency of PorA VR2 (A) and fHbp variants (B) in N. meningitidis serogroup B strains (n=243) isolated in 2016 in the UK. Data downloaded from the Meningococcal Research Foundation, 27 June 2017. Other: remaining alleles that occur in <4 isolates. (C) Analysis of recombinant Chimeric antigens by SDS-PAGE and Western blot. Immunoblots are probed with α- PorA VR2 mAbs: P I .4, P I .9, P I .14 and P I .15. (D) Detection of PorA in a panel of N. meningitidis serogroup B isolates by mouse polyclonal antisera from Chimeric Antigens fHbpv1. 4:PorA 151/P1.1.10_1 , fHbpv1. 4:PorA 151/P1.14 and fHbpv1. 4:PorA 151/P1.15 , fHbp V3.45 . :PorA 158/P1.4 and fHbp V3.45. :PorA 158/P 1.9

Example 1

It has been shown that immunogenic peptides can be introduced into factor H binding protein (fHbp), and the peptides are presented to the immune system and are able to elicit protective responses (Fig. 5 and 7). Peptides have been used from the integral membrane protein PorA for proof-in principle of this approach. PorA is difficult to express because of the insolubility of its membrane spanning domains. The immunogenic portions of the molecule reside in extracellular loops which are exposed to the immune system. However effective immune responses are only generated against the loops in their right conformation; linear peptide sequences do not elicit functional immune responses. Through knowledge of the structure of fHbp, it is possible to introduce PorA loops into fHbp and generate relevant responses against PorA. This results in a chimeric molecule, based on fHbp and PorA sequences in specific sites to generate a chimeric molecule. This approach can be used for any other immunogenic integral outer membrane protein.

It has been shown that the likely reason for the exclusion of v2 fHbp from vaccines is the inherent instability of its N-terminal β-barrel : i) it was not possible to determine the atomic structure of this portion of v2 fHbp10, ii) v2 fHbp is sensitive to protease digestion (mass spectrometry demonstrates that the cleaved sites reside in the N-terminal β-barrel, not shown), and iii) differential

scanning calorimetry confirms that the instability lies in this region of v2 fHbp10.

Stable v2 fHbps have been successfully generated. Mutagenesis affecting the N-terminal barrel has been undertaken, substituting amino acids (a.a. s) singly or in combination. Substitution of six amino acids in M6 fHbp stabilises v2 fHbp (i. e. 6 changes in c 130 a.a. s of this β-barrel, < 0.5%) (see WO2014030003 for details of the mutations). This is evident from differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and protease sensitivity (see WO2014030003 for details). The side chains of the altered residues promote interactions between the β-sheets of the N-terminal barrel, so are orientated towards the centre of the molecule; the changes do not affect the immunogenicity of the protein as expected (no difference in SBA, or α-fHbp IgG levels not shown).

Chimeric vl . l fHbp has been generated incorporating the 13 amino acid VR2 from P I . 16 PorA which elicits SBA in recipients of OMV vaccines16. While integral membrane proteins contain hydrophobic (thence insoluble) β-barrels, fHbp contains two barrels which can be expressed and purified to high levels. The VR2 sequence has been introduced into six different positions of fHbp (Fig. 2B); these sites were selected on the basis of similar spacing of flanking β-sheets in PorA22 and fHbp to reduce the likelihood of the insertion disrupting the overall structure of fHbp (Fig. 2B for predicted effect of the insertions). The immunogenicity of three fHbps with insertion of VR2 into a different of fHbp (Fig. 2B) has been assessed. All proteins elicit antibody responses that recognise against fHbp and PorA (Fig. 5 and 7), and importantly both proteins tested so far (with the VR2 in site 1 or 2) elicit SBA against fHbp and PorA independently (SBA for Nm H44/76, 512; and for Nm H44/76 fHbp, 256 for both fHbps). This provides proof of principle for this approach.

fHbp as a scaffold for multi-valent vaccines

Non-functional fHbps as vaccines- The function of fHbp was not known when clinical trials of fHbp-containing vaccines began; fHbp displays high affinity interactions with fH (dissociation constant <5 nM) irrespective of variant group, with fH engaging a large area of fHbp5. This interaction could impair the use of fHbp as a vaccine by i) blocking immunogenic epitopes and preventing the generation of antibodies that could compete with fH, and ii) reducing complement activation (through fH recruitment) and thence B cell activation at the site of immune induction. The use of non-functional fHbps circumvents these problems. Key amino acids of vl , 2 and 3 fHbps have been identified that are necessary for fH interactions10, and modification of single a.a. s of vl , v2 and v3 fHbps which prevent fH binding have been shown to retain or even enhance immunogenicity of this important vaccine antigen10'23.

To generate and evaluate single protein, multi-valent vaccine candidates:

Protective PorA epitopes from prevalent serosubtypes (which are defined by their PorA sequence) of Nm15 have been introduced into vl , stable v2 and v3 proteins; their stability and recognition by PorA and fHbp mAbs has been determined. PorA sequences have been selected to cover the diversity of isolates in the UK but data from any collection of meningococcal strains can be used.

Methods of research

Generation and characterisation of vaccine candidates - Recombinant fHbps were constructed and expressed in E. coli using standard plasmid vectors; proteins were affinity purified using the polyHis tag in the protein, anion exchange and gel filtration10 of chimeric vl , V2 and V3 fHbps as these are either in existing vaccines (vl . l and 3.45) or because of experience with the protein (v2), or because of their prevalence in Nm strains. PorA loops have been introduced into fHbp by standard methods, and we have demonstrated that the fusion proteins bind mAbs against common serosubtypes of PorA. This strategy has been used to compare native and designed sequences, and perform fine

mapping of antigenic and fH-binding of the candidates. DSC has been carried out using a VP Capillary DSC (GEHealthcare) and SPR with a Biacore 3000 (GE Healthcare) or ProteOn XPR36 (BioRad) as previously10.

References

1. Rosenstein, N. E., B. A. Perkins, D. S. Stephens, T. Popovic, and J. M. Hughes. 2001. Meningococcal disease. N. Engl. J. Med. 344: 1378- 1388.

2. Tan, L. K., Carlone, G. M., and Borrow, R. 2010. Advances in the development of vaccines against Neisseria meningitidis. N Engl J Med 362 : 151 1 - 1520

3. http://www.meningitis.org/research/genome

4. Finne, J., M. Leinonen, and P. H. Makela. 1983. Antigenic similarities between brain c omponents and bacteria causing meningitis. Implications for vaccine development and pathogenesis. Lancet 2:355-357.

5. Schneider, M. C, B. E. Prosser, J. J. Caesar, E. Kugelberg, S. et al. 2009. Neisseria meningitidis recruits factor H using protein mimicry of host carbohydrates. Nature 458 : 890-893.

6. Fletcher, L. D., L. Bernfield, V. Barniak, J. E. Farley, et al. 2004. Vaccine potential of the Neisseria meningitidis 2086 lipoprotein. Infect. Immun. 72:2088-2100

7. Masignani, V., Comanducci, M., Giuliani, M., Bambini, S., et al. 2003. Vaccination against Neisseria meningitidis using three variants of the lipoprotein GNA1870. J. Exp. Med. 197:789-799.

8. Beernink, P. T., Shaughnessy, J., Pajon, R., Braga, E. M., et al. 2012. The Effect of Human Factor H on Immunogenicity of Meningococcal Native Outer

Membrane Vesicle Vaccines with Over-Expressed Factor H Binding Protein. PLoS Pathogens 8 : e l 002688

9. Granoff, D. M., Welsch, J. A., and Ram, S. 2009. Binding of complement factor H (fH) to Neisseria meningitidis is specific for human fH and inhibits complement activation by rat and rabbit sera. Infect. Immun. 77: 764-769.

10. Johnson, S., Tan, L., van der Veen, S., Caesar, J., et al. (2012) Design and evaluation of meningococcal vaccines through structure-based modification of host and pathogen molecules. PLoS pathogens 8 : e l 002981

1 1. Zipfel, P. F., Skerka, C, Hellwage, J., Jokiranta, S. T., et al. 2002. Factor H family proteins: on complement, microbes and human diseases. Biochem.

Soc. Trans. 30: 971 -978.

12. Schneider, M. C, Exley, R. M., Ram, S., Sim, R. B ., and Tang, C. M. 2007. Interactions between Neisseria meningitidis and the complement system. Trends Microbiol 15 : 233-240

13. Richmond, P. C, Marshall H. S., Nissen, M. P., Jiang, Q., et al. 2012. Safety, immunogenicity, and tolerability of meningococcal serogroup B bivalent recombinant lipoprotein 2086 vaccine in healthy adolescents: a randomised, single-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. Lancet Infect Pis. 12: 597-607.

14. Gorringe AR, Pajon R 201 1. Bexsero: a multicomponent vaccine for prevention of meningococcal disease. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 1 1 : 969-85.

15. Lucidarme, J., Comanducci, M., Findlow, J., Gray, S. J., et al. 2010. Characterization of fHbp, nhba (gna2132), nadA, porA, and sequence type in group B meningococcal case isolates collected in England and Wales during January 2008 and potential coverage of an investigational group B meningococcal vaccine. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2010 17: 919-29

16. Rosenqvist, E.,
A., Wedege, E., Caugant, P. A., et al. 1993. A new variant of serosubtype P I . 16 in Neisseria meningitidis from Norway, associated with increased resistance to bactericidal antibodies induced by a serogroup B outer membrane protein vaccine. Microb Pathog. 15 : 197

17. Martin, S. L., Borrow, R., van der Ley, P., Pawson, M., Fox, A. J., and Cartwright, K. A. 2000. Effect of sequence variation in meningococcal PorA outer membrane protein on the effectiveness of a hexavalent PorA outer membrane vesicle vaccine. Vaccine 18 : 2476-81.

18. Martin, P. R., Ruijne, N., McCallum, L., O'Hallahan, J., and Oster, P. 2006. The VR2 epitope on the PorA P I .7-2, 4 protein is the maj or target for the immune response elicited by the strain-specific group B meningococcal vaccine MeNZB. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology 13 : 486-491.

19. McGuinness, B ., Barlow, A. K., Clarke, I. N., Farley, J. E. et al. 1990

Deduced amino acid sequences of class 1 protein (PorA) from three strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Synthetic peptides define the epitopes responsible for serosubtype specificity. J Exp Med. Jun 171 : 1871 -82.

20. Christodoulides, M., McGuinness, B.T., Heckels, J.E. 1993. Immunization with synthetic peptides containing epitopes of the class 1 outer-membrane protein of Neisseria meningitidis: production of bactericidal antibodies on immunization with a cyclic peptide. J Gen Micro 139: 1729

21. Gossger, N., Snape, M . P., Yu, L. M., Finn, A., et al. 2012. Immunogenicity and tolerability of recombinant serogroup B meningococcal vaccine administered with or without routine infant vaccinations according to different immunization schedules: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 307: 573-82. 22. van den Elsen, J. M. H., Herron, J. N., Hoogerhout, P., Poolman, J. T., et al. 1997. Bactericidal antibody recognition of a PorA epitope of Neisseria meningitidis: Crystal structure of a Fab fragment in complex with a fluorescein-conjugated peptide. Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics 29: 1 13-125.

23. Beernink, P. T., Shaughnessy, J., Braga, E. M., Liu, Q., et al. 201 1. A meningococcal factor H binding protein mutant that eliminates factor H binding enhances protective antibody responses to vaccination. J. Immunol. 186: 3606-3614.

24. Ufret-Vincenty, R. L., Aredo, B ., Liu, X., McMahon, A., et al. 2010. Transgenic mice expressing variants of complement factor H develop AMP-like retinal findings. Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 51 : 5878-5887.

All references are herein incorporated by reference.

Example 2 - Chimeric Antigens containing an expanded range of PorA VR2 loops generate immune responses

To test the adaptability of the fHbp:PorA Chimeric antigens, several Chimeric antigens composed from different combinations of fHbp and PorA VR2 were generated. The comprehensive meningococcal genome data available for strains isolated in the UK (Meningitis Research Foundation Meningococcus Genome Library developed by Public health England, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Oxford as a collaboration.) enables construction of Chimeric antigens that have exact sequence matches to the most common antigens in a given region. In 2016, the most prevalent PorA VR2s in serogroup B N. meningitidis isolates were P I .4 (15.2%), P I . 14 (15.2%), P I .9 (12.8%), P I . 16 (1 1. 1%) and P I . 15 (5.8%, Figure 8B). VR2 P 1. 10 1 was present in 1.6% serogroup B isolates. The most prevalent variant 1 , variant 2 and variant 3 fHbps were VI .4, V2. 19 and V3.45, present in 21.8%, 5.3% and 4.9% of serogroup B N. meningitidis isolates respectively (Figure 8C). Five different Chimeric antigens were constructed, in which a PorA VR2 was inserted position 151 (VI .4) or position 158 (V3.45, Figure 8A). Following Chimeric antigen expression and purification, Western blot analyses confirmed these Chimeric antigens all retained epitopes recognised by their cognate α-VR2 mAb and α-fHbp pAbs (Figure 8D). The thermal stability of wild type fHbps VI . 1 , VI .4 and V3.45 and the Chimeric antigens was determined by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC, Table 3).

To examine the ability of these fHbp:PorA Chimeric antigens to elicit immune responses, groups of CD 1 mice were immunized with each Chimeric antigen/alum; antisera obtained post immunisation were pooled. To assess the resulting PorA immune responses, Western blot were conducted with pooled antisera and a panel of serogroup B N. meningitidis disease isolates. Figure 8E demonstrates that all Chimeric antigens elicited α-PorA antibodies that recognised their cognate PorA VR2. To evaluate α-PorA SBA responses, Serum Bactericidal Assays were performed with pooled Chimeric antigen/alum antisera and serogroup B N. meningitidis strains with mismatched fHbp variants, to negate fHbp cross-protection. Titres range between >20 to > 1280 and are above the >8 threshold for an accepted correlate of protective immunity against N. meningitidis (Andrews, N. et al. Clin Diagn Lab Immunol 10, 780- 786 (2003)) (Table 4).

Table 3: Stability of wild type fHbp and Chimeric Antigens

Table 4: Serum bactericidal assay titres

α-PorA SBA titres generated using pooled Chimeric Antigen/alum antisera and serogroup B N. meningitidis isolates with mismatched fHbp variants. * fHbp truncated at residue 242.

fHbpv1. 4:PorA151/pl 15 not tested, as it was needed to generate ΔfHbp strains, the fHbp in strains with PorA VR2 P I . 15 is not mismatched.