Beaufort man and his Atlanta-based company inching closer to COVID-19 vaccine

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Beaufort native, David Dodd and his company GeoVax are inching closer to a vaccine for the coronavirus. Scientists have narrowed down three possible vaccines.

He says each vaccine is considered a candidate because all three will go through animal testing before they are narrowed down to one.

The company has dedicated their efforts to the COVID-19 outbreak since early January. They have also teamed up with another vaccine developer, BravoVax who are located in Wuhan, China.

“We’ve been identified as one of the 30 or so companies worldwide that are working on a COVID-19 vaccine and have requisite experience and doing such,” said David Dodd, CEO of GeoVax.

All three vaccine candidates are in what is called the purification process.

“In looking at the genetic structure and the virology and what we learned from SARS in the past we’ve actually constructed four vaccines of which we’ve put into testing,” said Dodd. “Three of which we are going to move forward into animal testing and all.”

Once the vaccine moves through animal testing it will go into the human testing phase. Dodd said that could happen by the end of the year.

“We need a vaccine to be able to halt this from infecting additional people,” said Dodd. “Especially if there should be additonal outbreaks in the future and all.”

Using their signature MVA-VLP platform scientists are able to move faster.

The bases of their vaccine has already been tested on thousands of people in six clinical trials for HIV.

“We have shown our platform is really safe and we can make single dose vaccines you know against the most terrible diseases like Ebola, Zika and so on,” said Dr. Farshad Guirakoo, GeoVax’s Chief Scientific Officer. “But, as a small company it is really difficult until they realize how good the platform is.”

For a company like GeoVax, funding is paramount.

Dodd is in talks with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) about grant money.

BARDA is an agency within the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that oversees the manufacturing, production, and purchasing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

“We made an application in February to BARDA based upon our plans, timelines, budgets, and what we were going to develop,” said Dodd.

Dr. Guirakoo tells WSAV News 3 that funding is absolutely critical at this point in the vaccine development process.

“The safety needs to be studied carefully in large number of people before you can deploy the vaccine,” he said. “Before the effects can be seen in millions and billions of people.”

Dodd hopes all the planning leads to a vaccine that will one day save lives.

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