Honduran scientist “decolonizes” anti-Covid vaccine and is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize


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Honduran scientist “decolonizes” anti-Covid vaccine and is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize scientific Honduran Maria Elena Bottazzi was nominated for Peace Nobel by a covid vaccine for India, the first immunogen for the poor, without limitations of patentslow cost and aimed at closing global “equity gaps” and “decolonizing”.

The microbiologist She says that the understanding of the world that her Latin roots give her was helpful in creating the scientific and social model for which she and her team at the Children’s Hospital of Texas, in the United States, have been proposed for the Nobel Prize.

Bottazzi underlines that for more than two decades the Vaccine Development Center of this hospital center has had the mission of developing immunizations against “the diseases of poverty”, such as intestinal parasites, Chagas disease and schistosomiasis, such as also they coronavirus.

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He says that his idea since he lived in Honduras is to break the cycle of these “neglected tropical diseases” that cause great chronic sequelae among people with limited resources, without health security, without education and who often live in remote areas.

These ailments keep many people with “a health morbidity that they cannot really advance and be productive in society,” he laments.

India, the territory of Corbevax

Among the vaccines that he has designed with his team is one to combat Covid-19, Corbevaxwhich began this year to be distributed in the Indiaafter its approval on December 28 by the regulators of that country.

This initiative, which produced a safe, effective and cheap vaccine, led Bottazzi and Peter Hotez, with whom he shares the direction of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, to be nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize. by US Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.

Bottazzi assures that it is a model that goes beyond the scientific, because it includes “forging” alliances with governments, civil organizations and the private sector to reach the poorest countries.

He underlines that they “removed” obstacles from intellectual property and patents and sought to create a large-scale production “that could really be used in many places around the world”.

“We knew that what we wanted to do was a vaccine that would eventually be really open science, open transfer, with the minimum barriers so that others could replicate it and that would indeed be low cost. And we achieved it,” he says proudly.

Botazzi underlines that “Corbevax is the first vaccine that is possible to access globally and that it will really come to close the equity gaps in access to Covid-19 vaccines.”

The concept emphasizes, it is “really bringing the entire ecosystem, whether scientific, technological, social government, community, to do good.”

In his words, it is decolonizing, “creating indigenous solutions for indigenous problems”, not waiting for high-income countries to say what must be done to solve a pandemic“but to create self-sufficiency”.

Regarding the Nobel nomination, he indicates that it is already a “responsibility to continue fighting, especially for those most unfortunate.”

He says that being born in Italy, raised in Honduras and educated in the United States influenced his work.

Having grown up in “a country (Honduras) that has obviously gone through many cycles of difficulties” directed his studies and has helped him “always maintain a bit of the realities of the world, to have compassion at the same time.”

The diplomacy of vaccinology

Unlike other vaccines such as Pfizer or modernlaboratories that do not share their recipes, the vaccine, produced by the Indian manufacturer Biological Ewhich gave it the name Corbevax, can be made available to any nation that can make it.

For Bottazzi, it is about the “diplomacy of the vaccinology“: their team came up with it, they gave it to a company that made it, they worked ‘transparently’ together, and ‘it ended up being a product practically owned by the people of India.’

About Corbevax, designed together with Hotez, who is also dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Bottazzi says it is “highly” safe and protective.

He says that since March 2020 they already had a prototype of the vaccine because for several years the center has had a specific program to study coronaviruses and they knew a lot about these pathogens.

“We knew that the spike protein It was a very important target,” he says.

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He adds that despite the fact that all vaccines have tried precisely to block and neutralize this protein, theirs did not receive scientific interest.

Corbevax uses the same technology as the hepatitis B vaccine, with recombinant proteins, which does not use the virus, is vegan and has no animal or human residues.

It is a synthetic production process in the laboratory with the use of yeasts, as is used in beer, but in this case they codify it so that it produces a replica of the spike protein to present it to the immune system.

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Honduran scientist “decolonizes” anti-Covid vaccine and is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize