Wisconsin doctors and scientists ahead of the game in development of COVID-19 vaccine

NOW: Wisconsin doctors and scientists ahead of the game in development of COVID-19 vaccine

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) - Doctors in Wisconsin are on their way to creating a vaccine to protect people against COVID-19, and they may be closer than others to having one ready.

The BioForward Wisconsin organization say companies and universities in the state are teaming up in the fight against COVID-19.  They say the biohealth industry in Wisconsin is diverse, right now developing testing kits, therapeutics and vaccines.

“What we all should be proud of is a lot of these things are happening in the state of Wisconsin,” said Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin.

Johnson says Wisconsin doctors and scientists have developed a flu vaccine already in clinical trials, it’s called “M2SR” by FluGen in Madison.

“It’s showing very nice safety profiles so far, so we know it’s not going to make people sick,” said Paul Radspinner, President and CEO of FluGen.

FluGen is now partnering up with doctors from UW- Madison and an Indian biotech company started by a UW grad. They’re adding some coronavirus gene sequences to M2SR to create a vaccine called ‘CoroFlu.’

“We’ve come together to put this together to hopefully get it to people as quickly as possible,” adds Radspinner.

“That vaccine that they have can now be transformed possibly into a vaccine for the coronavirus,” adds Johnson.

Paul Radspinner says they hope to start clinical trials for CoroFlu as soon as August, then work on getting it approved for use by the public.  

“It’s spray in the nose, it’s only one in two that we know of that’s pursuing that route,” said Radspinner.

“He can now leverage that technology and possibly get a vaccine out sooner than what normally takes many years to go through all your clinical trials,” says Johnson.

With dozens if not hundreds of companies developing a vaccine for COVID-19, area doctors say some of the biggest challenges are having to go through clinical trials and getting it approved by regulatory agencies, like the FDA.

“None of us want to put anything in our bodies that hasn’t been tested sufficiently,” said Johnson.

Radspinner says he hopes CoroFlu will be sped up in the approval process because they’ve already seen what it does to the body.

“All of us need a lot of hope right now that things are being done,” adds Johnson. “This is why we need science and science is advancing as quickly as possible to try to get this to the finish line.”

Radspinner says even with his team on their way to developing a vaccine, if someone can beat them and do it safely that’s fantastic, because the more vaccine candidates there are the sooner there will be a solution to COVID-19. 

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