The Power of Research: Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine

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Research is one of the most powerful tools mankind has ever created. Scientists engaged in systematic research have discovered new modes of energy, uncovered fundamental truths about the universe, and developed numerous life-saving medical treatments. It is incredible to think that before the discovery of penicillin by research scientist Alexander Fleming, a minor cut becoming infected was potentially fatal.

Today, the world is turning to research scientists in the race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, a fast-spreading respiratory virus that can lead to hospitalization and in some tragic cases, loss of life.

ExxonMobil has always been driven by a commitment to research and we deeply believe in its power to bring solutions to mankind. That’s why we’re supporting two vital European research programs seeking effective treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.

Clinical trials of COVID-19 treatments

At University Hospital Antwerp (UZA), one of the two COVID-19 reference hospitals in Belgium, ExxonMobil are supporting a COVID-19 fund. As an example, within UZA a research unit has been set up in cooperation with the University of Antwerp and the Institute for Tropical Medicine. In cooperation with other Belgian hospitals, the unit is conducting clinical trials of potential COVID-19 treatments – which have shown promising results in preclinical research.

Prof. Dr. Herman Goossens and Prof. Dr. Philippe Jorens are leading the UZA trials and will coordinate with European partners to incorporate the results into an international study. Their target is to improve the chance of a patient’s recovery from COVID-19 and to help them avoid the need for treatment in an intensive care unit, a resource which is under great pressure.

“We do not only need financial resources to purchase additional equipment to deal with this crisis, but also to fund and conduct the clinical studies on the virus,” says Dhr. Johnny Van Der Straeten, President of the UZA Foundation. “This donation contributes to the necessary resources for this.”

The race for a COVID-19 vaccine

At the same time, researchers at University Hospital Leuven have joined forces to understand the physical effects of COVID-19 in humans and to develop both treatments and a vaccine. The university’s Rega Institute houses the Virology and Chemotherapy Laboratory, led by Prof. Johan Neyts.

The institute is studying the way known coronaviruses evolve and looking for ways to attack the virus – such as anti-virals and active substances in existing medicine. On behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the team will test 15,000 active ingredients in both existing drugs and drugs under development.

The Leuven researchers are using a technology based on the yellow fever vaccine and are currently conducting preclinical tests. If the results are encouraging they can move to testing a prototype vaccine on healthy volunteers.

“The research into COVID-19 requires a lot of financial resources, and is also a race against time,” says Prof. Chris Van Geet, Vice Rector of the Biomedical Sciences Group. “In order to accelerate the research, any financial support is therefore very welcome.”

ExxonMobil stands shoulder to shoulder with these research teams and we are proud to support the vital work they are doing.

Photographic credit: With thanks to University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium, for supplying the header image.

Tags:   Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationclinical trialscoronavirusCOVID-19 vaccineDhr. Johnny Van Der StraetenInstitute for Tropical MedicineProf. Chris Van GeetProf. Dr. Herman GoossensProf. Dr. Philippe JorensProf. Johan NeytsRega InstituteresearchUniversity Hospital AntwerpUniversity Hospital LeuvenUniversity of AntwerpVirology and Chemotherapy Laboratory
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