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How To Build A Vaccine

Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and community health sciences, was interviewed by UCLA Health's U Magazine about the race was to develop vaccines against COVID-19

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Once the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the race was on to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. This is a story of UCLA’s efforts to confront the crisis and find a solution.

Marcus A. Horwitz, MD, knew he would be an outlier. It was March 2020, COVID-19 had exploded and everybody was frightened and frantic to stop it. A vaccine was one answer, and therapeutics was another. Long before Pfizer and Moderna would make headlines with their vaccines, multiple pharmaceutical companies and universities in the United States and around the world were steaming ahead with their own research. In the race for a vaccine, some 200 potential candidates were in the works. Some were yet just a gleam in a scientist’s eye, others were further along. Dr. Horwitz wanted in.

Dr. Horwitz is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He was not a COVID-19 expert, but for 35 years he has been building and perfecting vaccines against Tier 1 agents of bioterrorism — anthrax, tularemia, plague and the like — that cause respiratory infections and can be lethal. He also was instrumental in developing a vaccine against tuberculosis, which is spread through coughs and sneezes and kills some 1.4 million people worldwide every year.

by Mark Wheeler