COVID-19 – Current Trends in Vaccine Research

Falling Walls Circle Tables will give the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

Vaccinations provide a pathway to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also present immense challenges.  In this Falling Walls Circle Table – held before phase 3 trial data from any COVID-19 vaccine research had been published – the panel discussed how companies have raced to develop vaccines, and to produce them at vast scales.

The doctrine has long been that it takes a minimum of two years to develop medications for a new pathogen. Accelerating this development has presented great challenges to supply chains, which have had to ramp up operations, while continuing to produce their conventional products and keep their employees safe. But 2020 astounded expectations, with some vaccine candidates developed over a matter of weeks. Given the rapid pace of the vaccine research and development, Uwe Gottschalk asked, “how can we apply it, learn from it and implement it elsewhere?”

Once vaccines are developed, however, hundreds of millions of doses must be produced. To accelerate production, companies are taking advantage of innovations such as virtual reality training of specialists and artificial intelligence enhanced processes. Manufacturing can be expanded by making use of multiple facilities. But not all innovation comes from development and production. Careful consideration of who to vaccinate with which vaccine can have profound impacts on the course of the pandemic.

René Fáber has been working at Sartorius since 2002. He started as an R&D Scientist in the Membrane Modification Department, then headed R&D Process Technologies. Later, as Vice President, he held various management positions in Marketing for Filtration and Fermentation Technologies, as well as in Key Account Management. In his most recent position before his appointment to the Executive Board, he was responsible for the entire Product Development unit of the Bioprocess Solutions Division. René Fáber studied chemistry in Bratislava, Slovakia, and earned his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. He is of Slovakian nationality.

Prof. Carlos A. Guzmán (MD, PhD) is Head of the Department Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and also APL professor at the Hannover Medical School.

He studied Medicine at the National University of Rosario and received his specialization in Medical Bacteriology in Argentina. With a scholarship from the Italian Foreign Ministry, he then conducted research at the Institute of Microbiology at the University of Genoa, Italy. He acquired his doctorate in Medicine and Surgery, becoming also a doctor in Microbiological Sciences.

In 1994, he moved to Germany and became head of the Vaccine Research group at the HZI, formerly GBF. He has been active in the field of Vaccinology since 1989. His work led to the discovery of new adjuvants, the establishment of Salmonella spp. as a delivery system for DNA vaccines and therapeutic molecules, and the development of vaccine candidates against different infectious diseases. He has published over 260 papers in international journals and is co-inventor of numerous international patents.

Prof. Guzmán is part of the editorial board of Microbial Biotechnology, Bioengineered and Microbial Immunology. He is also review editor of Frontiers in Mucosal Immunology, as well as member of “Council of 100”of Vaccine. In addition he is speaker of the topic “Immune Response and Intervention” of the program “Infection Research” of the Helmholtz Association.

Uwe Gottschalk earned his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Münster and Nottingham, delivering his dissertation on drug targeting with monoclonal antibodies. He worked in different capacities for Bayer Health Care from 1991 to 2004, when he became Group Vice President at Sartorius Stedim Biotech, with a global responsibility for bioseparation-related process technology. In 2014, he joined Lonza Pharma/Biotech to establish and lead the global Research and Technology organization. He has been chief scientific officer at Lonza since 2017. In academia, Dr. Gottschalk is currently senior lecturer at the University of Duisburg-Essen and also lectured at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Uwe Gottschalk is a valued member of a number of associations connected to the pharmaceutical industries, such as the Society for BioChromatography and Nanoseparations, the Management Pool at the Institute of Marketing, University of St. Gallen and the American Chemical Society. He sits on the editorial advisory boards of Pharmaceutical Bioprocessing, Genetic Engineering News and BioPharm International.

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