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Dr. Andrea Gambotto is working on potential vaccine candidates for COVID-19. In 2003, his group was the first to develop a vaccine for a coronavirus. He discusses developing the COVID-19 vaccine based on its epidemiology.

He explains

  • The difference between viral and protein platforms in vaccine development,
  • The likely delivery method of their vaccine in a patch and microneedle array form, and
  • The specific challenges for a COVID-19 vaccine, less common in other infectious diseases, such as the spike protein.

Dr. Andrea Gambotto is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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He’s worked on vaccines for MERs and SARs in the past decades and now his group is developing a prototype for COVID-19. Thus far, they have tested it on animal models and hope to move to testing on people soon. He explains the attributes necessary for the vaccine based on its epidemiology.

Along the way he describes basic vaccine elements such as the difference between a protein and virus platform and the challenges of meeting yield requirements.

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He notes that the first group they will test is a subunit protein. Protein platforms are safer, he notes, because they are easier to manufacture large scale and to administer.

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Their prototype could be stable at room temperature, which is important because it needs to be used and stored all over the world.  He comments that they are looking at delivery through microneedle patches and explains this process in more detail.

He also tells listeners how the spike proteins in the vaccine induce antibodies that bind with the real virus and block it from entering the cell, which is called neutralizing a virus. He elaborates on this, explaining that ultimately the vaccine would have hundreds of different protein antibodies. He describes additional challenges of achieving the perfect balance in vaccine development particular to COVID-19.

To find out more, see the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine website coverage, and keep an ear open for media updates.

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