North Carolina biopharmaceutical company working to develop vaccine, diagnostic test for COVID-19

North Carolina biopharmaceutical company working to develop vaccine, diagnostic test for COVID-19
Heat Biologics, a biopharmaceutical company in North Carolina, is working with researchers at the University of Miami to develop a vaccine and diagnostic test for COVID-19. (Source: Heat Biologics)

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - A biopharmaceutical company in North Carolina is working to develop a vaccine and diagnostic test for COVID-19.

Heat Biologics, based in Morrisville, North Carolina, is working with researchers at the University of Miami to develop the vaccine and test.

In a press release, Sylvia Daunert, PharmD, MS, PhD, Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said the new test would utilize molecular recognition and amplification of the target virus.

WBTV spoke with Heat Biologics CEO Jeff Wolf via Skype Monday evening. He explained how quickly his colleagues have been working on these projects.

“It’s been like drinking from a fire hose. We’re working as fast as we can on the vaccine and the diagnostic to get these to the patients that need them as quickly as possible,” explained Wolf.

He explained how the vaccine his team is working on will be different from other vaccines being tested.

“Our vaccine is different from any other vaccine out there,” said Wolf. “We’re focused on specifically activating the soldiers to attack the virus. We activate T-cells that go and destroy the virally infected cells in the patient.”

The company CEO said the diagnostic test will also be unique in how quickly it will yield results.

“Our test is a point-of-care, 30-minute test that requires no additional lab machinery to diagnose a patient,” said Wolf.

A company press release states that the test will require a throat swab and the results will be available on a paper strip.

Wolf said it is unclear when the vaccine and diagnostic test will be available for human use.

“We are moving through preclinical development right now and our goal is to really move this into the agency and get these products approved and to the patients who need them as quickly as possible,” the CEO said.

He noted that his company typically works on vaccines for cancer and other infectious diseases, but is now trying to help during the pandemic.

President Donald Trump announced last week he was slashing red tape and ordering the FDA to fast-track the use of two drugs used to treat people with coronavirus.

“I have to say our government is prepared to do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes we’re doing. We’re doing it in every way,” Trump told reporters.

Wolf said he appreciates the administration’s support in working to get vaccines through the clinical stages.

“We have to take a stand against it. We have to do something about it. We don’t want a pandemic like this to get out of control,” said Wolf.

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