The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) today announced that a team from the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine is the recipient of the 2023 David and Beatrix Hamburg Award for Advances in Biomedical Research and Clinical Medicine for developing a safe, effective, and affordable recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine technology. The award, which recognizes the group’s achievements with a medal and $50,000, will be presented at the NAM’s annual meeting on Oct. 8.
Team leaders and co-directors of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and Maria Elena Bottazzi, PhD, senior associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, will accept the award on behalf of the team.
Additional members of the CVD team recognized include:
- Wen-Hsiang Chen, PhD, assay development and quality control unit leader and assistant professor in pediatric tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine
- Jason Kimata, PhD, genetic engineering unit leader and associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine
- Jungsoon Lee, PhD, process development unit leader and tropical medicine research director at Baylor College of Medicine
- Zhuyun Liu, MS, process development unit leader and tropical medicine research director at Baylor College of Medicine
- Jeroen Pollet, PhD, formulation and delivery unit leader and assistant professor of pediatric tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine
- Bin Zhan, MD, molecular biology unit leader and associate professor of pediatric tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine
Since 2011, the team has led a program to engineer, develop, and manufacture a SARS coronavirus vaccine prototype. With the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, this prototype enabled them to create an effective receptor-binding protein subunit vaccine technology against the COVID-19 virus in 2021.
To speed global immunization at the height of the pandemic, the Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Development, in partnership with BCM Ventures, Baylor College of Medicine’s integrated commercialization team, enabled vaccine manufacturers access to the vaccine technology. To date, nearly 100 million doses have been administered in India (as CORBEVAX, produced by Biological E. Limited) and Indonesia (as IndoVac, produced by Bio Farma). The CORBEVAX vaccine was also approved in Botswana, and the CVD team is helping establish vaccine production capacity in Africa and setting the precedent for a scalable blueprint for vaccine development and distribution across the continent.
Via technology transfer to developing country vaccine manufacturers, the CVD’s vaccine technology was shared with an open science philosophy without CVD’s intellectual property protections and patents, and while promoting transparent communications. This philosophy helps incentivize, build, and strengthen capacity for vaccine development locally and internationally. The CVD team also has been committed to leading advocacy through “vaccine diplomacy,” facilitating national and international cooperation and partnerships, and helping achieve vaccine equity and access.
The CVD vaccine technology has the capacity to fill the access gaps created by more expensive, newer vaccine technologies. For example, it can rapidly reach 36 countries in Africa, which previously had been able to vaccinate 20 percent or less of their populations. Looking to the future, the CVD’s vaccine development strategy ensures sustained support for vaccine research and development during non-emergencies and commitment to investing in the next generation of vaccine scientists by training them to excel in vaccine process, assay, and formulation development, quality control, and regulatory sciences.
“Congratulations to the team of brilliant research scientists led by Drs. Hotez and Bottazzi,” said Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine. “Their rapid development of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 is remarkable, but even more commendable is their commitment to advance the common good by making their technology accessible and affordable for everyone who needs it. Their contribution to global health equity is immeasurable.”
Hotez was elected to the NAM in 2008, and Bottazzi was a scholar in the NAM Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Program from July 2019-June 2022. Both have served on boards and study committees for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Created in 2021, this award is named for David Hamburg, who was president of the Institute of Medicine from 1975-1980, and Beatrix Hamburg, an NAM member and expert in child and adolescent behavioral health. The award is funded by an endowment established in 2004 in honor of the Hamburgs’ life and legacy.
The award recognizes an exceptional biomedical research discovery, translation, or public health intervention by one or more scientists that has fundamentally enriched the understanding of biology and disease, leading to a significant improvement in human health and social well-being and reduction in global health inequities. Nominees are eligible for consideration without regard to education or profession, and award recipients are selected by a committee of experts convened by the National Academy of Medicine. The selection committee is chaired by Huda Y. Zoghbi, professor, department of molecular and human genetics, Baylor College of Medicine; director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital; and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Zoghbi was recused from the committee’s consideration and voting to select the CVD team for the 2023 award.