Baylor College of Medicine’s fight against COVID-19 has received a boost from Tito’s Handmade Vodka through a $1 million grant from the brand’s philanthropic arm Love, Tito’s to accelerate research on a vaccine for the virus.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor, and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, serve as co-directors of the Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development, where they develop vaccines for neglected and emerging tropical diseases that impact those living in poverty across the globe.
Now, their team is drawing from the work they started in 2011 to develop a SARS vaccine, with the goal of repurposing it and accelerating a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This rapid-switch strategy will rely on the robust and critical scientific information they already compiled during the development of the SARS vaccine and prior work, allowing for significant time-saving and acceleration of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everything we do at Tito’s is rooted in giving back to the communities we serve, and this pandemic is no exception,” said Dr. Sarah Everett, director of Global Impact and Research at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “There are dozens of potential vaccines currently in development by scientists across the globe. We applaud the worldwide effort to fund and support vaccines that look promising, because we can never know in advance which ones will be effective. We’re proud to support Dr. Hotez, Dr. Bottazzi and their team’s work to improve humanity’s odds of success against COVID-19 and future coronavirus mutations.”
“It’s an honor to work with Tito’s on this life-saving initiative, which we hope will ultimately lead to a vaccine for America,” Hotez said. “Our vision is that it would also advance as a low-cost global health vaccine, now that COVID-19 is racing through Latin American nations, such as Ecuador and Brazil, in addition to South Asia.”
“Our coronavirus vaccine is designed in Texas and tested in Texas with the utmost priority to ensure it is safe and effective,” Bottazzi said. “To now see that it will be supported by Texas-based Tito’s is a testament that our state will be recognized as being at the forefront of this pandemic, making a difference and reaching all populations locally and globally.”
The grant will allow researchers to engage in remaining vaccine manufacturing activities and support the partnership with PATH, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health, to advance the vaccine through the regulatory phase. This will allow them to accelerate the timeline for the vaccine to move into human trials. Once the initial safety trial is completed, the vaccine will be poised to continue its advanced clinical development, potentially leading to a vaccine suitable for global use and access.