Critical Assessment of Purification and Analytical Technologies for Enveloped Viral Vector and Vaccine Processing and Their Current Limitations in Resolving Co-Expressed Extracellular Vesicles


Viral vectors and viral vaccines are invaluable tools in prevention and treatment of diseases. Many infectious diseases are controlled using vaccines designed from subunits or whole viral structures, whereas other genetic diseases and cancers are being treated by viruses used as vehicles for delivering genetic material in gene therapy or as therapeutic agents in virotherapy protocols. Viral vectors and vaccines are produced in different platforms, from traditional embryonated chicken eggs to more advanced cell cultures. All these expression systems, like most cells and cellular tissues, are known to spontaneously release extracellular vesicles (EVs). EVs share similar sizes, biophysical characteristics and even biogenesis pathways with enveloped viruses, which are currently used as key ingredients in a number of viral vectors and licensed vaccine products. Herein, we review distinctive features and similarities between EVs and enveloped viruses as we revisit the downstream processing steps and analytical technologies currently implemented to produce and document viral vector and vaccine products. Within a context of well-established viral vector and vaccine safety profiles, this review provides insights on the likely presence of EVs in the final formulation of enveloped virus products and discusses the potential to further resolve and document these components.