Triangle doctors, scientists help produce Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With a visit from then-President Donald Trump, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center in Morrisville announced it would manufacture components for Novavax’s attempt at producing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies CEO Martin Meeson, right, speaks as President Donald Trump participates in a tour of Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Morrisville, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Eleven months later, clinical trials show it to be more than 90 percent effective.

While it shares a few similarities with Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson – it is also different.

All introduce the spike protein which is on the surface of the coronavirus.

Pfizer and Modern use an mRNA vaccine that sends something like a text message to your own cells to make those proteins.

J&J uses a virus to introduce a message into the cell to do the same thing.

Novavax has a slightly different approach.

“This is where they actually take a virus and give it some genetic information, put it inside of the cells from a moth, like the insect, a moth – use that cell to act as sort of a crop to make spiked proteins, collect those spiked proteins, assemble them together and then inject it,” said UNC School of Medicine immunologist Dr. David Wohl.

CBS 17 morning meteorologist Bill Reh was part of the trial and has had the vaccine since January.

“They really look after you that. It’s not like you’re just a number, you’re really important to them and you get that feeling like, ‘yeah, I’m in really good hands here. Why not?'” said Reh.

Portions of the trial were spearheaded by UNC School of Medicine and lead by Dr. Cindy Gay.

The Novavax vaccine has one crucial element that sets it apart.

“It doesn’t require the strict cold that the other vaccines do. So there’s a lot of potential for using this outside the U.S. Especially, where the cold storage issues could be a problem,” said Wohl.

So you may ask, why does this matter to me here in the United States?

Vaccinating other parts of the world is how we stop new variants that are more contagious and deadly.

“Remember this whole pandemic started from a medium-sized city in China to engulf the world. Imagine unchecked viral replication in Brazil and India, you can imagine the magnitude of the threat to us. And we’re seeing that now with the Delta variant,” said Wohl.

It’s also one more reason, he said, that everyone here at home do their own part and get vaccinated.

Novavax is moving forward the process to receive FDA approval.

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