RTP researchers work 'aggressively' to develop a novel coronavirus vaccine

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WTVD) -- Scientists in Research Triangle Park are focusing their attention on the deadly novel coronavirus.

"We're working as aggressively as we can to develop this vaccine," said Jeffrey Wolf, CEO of Heat Biologics in Morrisville. Wolf said the company will use its patented cell-based technology to develop the vaccine.

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The team of scientists are also working on pre-clinical trial vaccines for viruses like HIV, Zika and the malaria parasite.

"If you look at this like a war and what we're battling against--the coronavirus is in fact a war," Wolf said. "We're focused on taking out every soldier--every cell that is infected with the coronavirus."

Wolf said the vaccine takes advantage of proteins to trigger the body's immune system. The vaccine takes advantage of a natural biological process utilizing a "danger" protein found in all human cells. The team genetically modifies human cells to continually push out viral markers bound to this protein. Those markers, called antigens, then activate an immune cell response to destroy cells infected with the virus.

Heat Biologics said it is testing its vaccines on mice, in compliance with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Guidelines.

"The vaccines we create will really protect you for the rest of your life for that particular virus," said Jeff Hutchins, who is part of the team working on the novel coronavirus vaccine. "As a scientist, it's kind of an honor. You want to do something that has an impact."

The team's research still has to go through several phases of clinical trials before it is an FDA-approved vaccine.

The company has no current timeline for when a vaccine might be available to the public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the best way to prevent coronavirus is to wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing and stay home if you feel unwell.

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Cumberland County health officials show proper hand washing technique to avoid disease.



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