FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority gave Colorado State University nearly $700,000 to for its vaccine candidate for COVID-19. This funding will allow a team of infectious disease researchers at CSU to further develop a novel virus inactivation process, called SolaVAX.
“These are things we train for and prepare for all our lives in some cases,” said Ray Goodrich, executive director of the Infectious Disease Research Center at CSU. Goodrich aided in the invention of SolaVAX.
SolaVAX uses UV light and riboflavin to produce an inactivated virus which stimulates a person’s immune system to fight the virus. SolaVAX has already been shown to inactivate another virus in the coronavirus family.
“When COVID-19 entered the scene in January, it was natural for us to think ‘Can we use these methods and apply it toward doing the same thing for SARS-CoV-2 virus?’” said Goodrich. “We are building off of nearly 20 years of experience of using this process to improve the safety of blood transfusion products. That prior knowledge and current experience helps to translate this rapidly into a way to manufacture vaccine products.”
Goodrich describes the process as scrambling an egg while it’s still in a shell.
“We grow the SARS-CoV-2 virus and we treat it with our process. We kill it and prevent it from replicating, but we do in a way that preserves the structural integrity of the virus,” explained Goodrich.
With SolaVAX, the proteins are left intact. That’s what is used to stimulate the immune system and recognize the virus as something foreign. Your body then generates antibodies that protect you against subsequent infections.
“The initial results we obtained when we tested this are looking incredibly encouraging and positive,” said Goodrich.
Goodrich says it’s impossible to say how long it will take to develop a vaccine, but this additional funding will help CSU scale up their process and get their candidate suitable for human clinical settings.
“We don’t want to do something that’s going to cause more of problem. We have to be careful in our approaches. We have to evaluate these things thoroughly and unfortunately these things take time,” said Goodrich.
CSU will contribute $448,143 to support this project, bringing the total contribution for this phase of the research to $1.15 million.