By Mekialaya White

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – In her five years at Colorado State University, Dr. Amy MacNeill has worked with infectious diseases countless times, donning her lab coat and mask.

Colorado State University's Dr. Amy MacNeill

(credit: Dr. Amy MacNeill)

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Now, MacNeill’s daily routine looks a little different than in years past. Carefully perched over tools, she and her team are busy doing research which they hope will help lend way to a coronavirus vaccine. They’re using elements from another vaccine first introduced in the 1700s to fight smallpox.

“It (began) just out of an understanding of the science. So, I normally work on using poxviruses for a vaccine for cancer.  To do that, you basically put a protein of interest into the poxvirus and hope that it will stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells. This is very similar, except that we are using a small piece of a protein from the coronavirus to try to stimulate the immune response against it,” she told CBS4’s Mekialaya White in a Zoom interview from her home.

Researchers are still in the early stages, but MacNeill says she has a lot of support from CSU; it’s part of the university’s mission to address these types of issues.

“There’s a large group at CSU that works on emerging and infectious diseases as part of the work that they do and have done for years. It’s great to be a part of this team and nice to know that we have the support of this college and the university to do this work and understand the importance of this work,” MacNeill said.

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Colorado State University's Dr. Amy MacNeill

(credit: Dr. Amy MacNeill)

Currently, the university is closed with the exception of essential services like this research. She says she’s most eager when students can get in on it as well. “I know the university is working really hard to make it so the students feel involved and hopefully they can come back sooner rather than later and really become a key component in all of this work.”

Colorado State University's Dr. Amy MacNeill

(credit: Dr. Amy MacNeill)

She also adds that her team is trying to fast-track the research as much as possible.

“Even though it doesn’t feel like it, we are moving it forward more quickly than we normally would be able to. That is because of the past research that has been done,” she said.

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MacNeill says the next step is to see if it works as a vaccine for animals that are susceptible to coronavirus. Then, the scientists plan to get together with larger companies that can produce it safely and, eventually, get it FDA approved.

Mekialaya White