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An effective vaccine would be a valuable tool for malaria control and elimination; however, the leading malaria vaccine in development, RTS,S/AS01, provided only partial protection in a Phase 3 trial. R21 is a next-generation RTS,S-like vaccine. We have previously shown in mice that R21 administered in Matrix-M is highly immunogenic, able to elicit complete protection against sporozoite challenge, and can be successfully administered with TRAP based viral-vectors resulting in enhanced protection. In this study, we developed a novel, GMP-compatible purification process for R21, and evaluated the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of ultra-low doses of both R21 and RTS,S when formulated in AS01. We demonstrated that both vaccines are highly immunogenic and also elicit comparable high levels of protection against transgenic parasites in BALB/c mice. By lowering the vaccine dose there was a trend for increased immunogenicity and sterile protection, with the highest dose vaccine groups achieving the lowest efficacy (50% sterile protection). We also evaluated the ability to combine RTS,S/AS01 with TRAP based viral-vectors and observed concurrent induction of immune responses to both antigens with minimal interference when mixing the vaccines prior to administration. These studies suggest that R21 or RTS,S could be combined with viral-vectors for a multi-component vaccination approach and indicate that low dose vaccination should be fully explored in humans to maximize potential efficacy.

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