Madison-based collaboration joins race to develop COVID-19 vaccine

MADISON, Wis.– A Madison-based collaboration joins scientists around the world in racing to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are teaming up with FluGen and Bharat Biotech to develop a coronavirus vaccine at a pace much quicker than usual.

“This collaboration has thrown it’s hat in the ring to produce a vaccine as quick as possible, one that is safe and effective,” Eric Hamilton, a UW-Madison spokesperson, said. “If this is the one or one of several that works, that would be fantastic.”

It typically takes 15 to 20 years to develop a vaccine, but with about 100 potential vaccines in development, an estimated arrival could be as early as winter, according to FluGen CEO Paul Radspinner.

“Those are pretty aggressive from our perspective, but we’ll see,” Radspinner said. “Hopefully someone beats us there, because the sooner the better, as long as it’s done safely.”

While time is of the essence, Radspinner said they’re focusing on safety before speed.

“The margin of safety has to be so much higher for vaccines, because you don’t want to do more damage than you do good,” Radspinner said.

Radspinner said their collaboration is looking at the development of a vaccine as a team effort, rather than a competition.

“We’re hoping that we can get our vaccine safely and quickly to clinical trials, where we have enough people tested to feel comfortable that it’s ready to go,” Radspinner said.

This collaboration’s vaccine is unique as they’re using their flu vaccine as a launching point. It’s one of a few candidates that would be delivered through a nasal spray, rather than a shot, which they think could provide an advantage in fighting respiratory infections, according to Radspinner.