Beaufort man working on coronavirus vaccine through his Atlanta-based company

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WSAV)- Atlanta based company, GeoVax is working to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus or COVID-19.

David Dodd of Beaufort is the company’s CEO. He tells News 3 his scientists already have three viable vaccine candidates that will move to animal testing in a matter of weeks.

GeoVax is a biotechnology company with experience in creating preventive treatments. Thanks to their work vaccines for HIV, Ebola, and even Zika are entering or already being used in clinical trials.

Dodd said his company uses an approach to make vaccines known as the MVA-VLP platform. This allows experts to build on the construct of previous safety models, making it more efficient.

“In general it takes about one to three months to design and construct vaccine candidate,” said Dodd. “What I mean is, that puts you at the point of being ready to go into animal testing,” he said. “Completion of animal testing then moves into human testing.”

GeoVax has a bit of a head start thanks to a partnership with BravoVax, a company based in the heart of the outbreak, Wuhan, China.

Dodd said the two companies connected at a conference before the virus started spreading. He said originally their talks were not focused around developing a coronavirus vaccine.

“In our next phone call our colleagues were already quarantined,” said Dodd. “They were unable to go anywhere at all and so it was at that point we said why don’t we focus on this coronavirus.”

Together they hope to create a vaccine in one to two years. Dr. Farshad Guirakhoo, GeoVax’s Chief Scientific Medical Officer, said the process usually takes more than a decade.

“We are working 24/7 to make sure we can quickly make the vaccine candidate and test them in our pre-human model,” said Guirakhoo. “Then we will move to manufacturing and then quickly into human clinical trial.”

Dodd said GeoVax is tasked with developing the vaccine while BravoVax will help manufacture it.

“They have the manufacturing capacity ability so we thought maybe we could work together and focus,” said Dodd. “We are doing joint development, we do the front end and they then can help us carry it forward.”

Money is a huge factor in getting a possible coronavirus vaccine to human trials.

President Trump has dedicated more than 8.3 billion dollars to combat the outbreak. Officials said more than 3 billion will go to the Department of Human and Health Services. Dodd hopes some of that money will help fast track a vaccine.

“We already have a request, which we made last month to Health and Human Services,” said Dodd. “We already put that request in today, we put in another request to another funding agency so we are right on top of that and hopefully been proactive on that.”

Dodd is headed to Whitehouse this week to meet with members of the coronavirus task force. He hopes officials will see the company’s progress and give them the funding they need.

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