David Pulido-Gómez, Nerea Irigoyen and Rocío Martinez Núñez are the proof of the high impact of Spanish researchers at the United Kingdom, facing the COVID-19
The first researcher is David Pulido-Gómez, who was recently interviewed at the Spanish radio “Cadena SER”. According to his words: “We’ll have the COVID-19 vaccine by autumn if all goes well”. David Pulido-Gómez works at The Jenner Institute at Oxford University which is one of the most advanced and the first clinical trials will begin in the coming days.
In the team of seventy researchers, the biophysicist David Pulido-Gómez has an important role: “We are dedicated to studying molecules. We see how protein interacts with our body’s cells and with the immune system. With that information, we can develop more potent vaccines, that can be more stable or that have a lower cost when it comes to making them”.
Pulido-Gómez explains that the list of difficulties is long: “We have little information because it is a new virus. We must ensure that the vaccine generates sufficient protection and, most importantly, that it is long-lived. That is, it will protect people for as long as possible. What we don’t know yet is whether the vaccine will give us protection for years. That depends on the vaccine and how the immune system reacts, the antibodies it generates and the quality. The amount of antibodies must be constant in the blood “.
The Jenner Institute is about to begin the first clinical trial in healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 50. There are about 546 people in this first phase. ” Then, if it works, next month we would do a clinical trial with children and people between 65 and 80 years old. If this worked, we would start a clinical trial in June with 5,000 people, “explains Pulido-Gómez. Besides, the Jenner Institute is in contact with the European Union and other countries to extend the trial to other countries.
When they announced that they needed volunteers, there was “an avalanche of volunteers”. This Catalan biophysicist remembers that normally it is the scientists who lend themselves to the tests, but it has not been necessary, because there has been a long list of volunteers. In return, there is an economic consideration ranging from £200 to £600.
The next researcher is a virology expert and researcher at the University of Cambridge: Nerea Irigoyen. She leads her research group at the University of Cambridge and she is the first researcher to apply a very powerful technique, such as the ribosomal profile, for the study of viruses as different as HIV, zika or coronavirus.
Nerea Irigoyen recognizes the great transmission of SARS-Cov-2 on Radio Euskadi’s “Boulevard Informativo”: “If a virus kills fast it is easy to contain, it does not if it can transmit it through asymptomatic,” he says, “it is the perfect pandemic virus”.
In Irigoyen’s opinion, it is time to think about de-escalation, but he warns: “Do not be hasty because a bad de-escalation can produce a lethal wave for a citizenry tired of being confined”. The researcher claims to “test everyone and de-register little by little” and believes that “the last to leave must be the oldest and those with previous pathologies”.
Irigoyen also does not rule out the possibility of a return to confinement. The first to take to the streets could be “in principle” those who have already passed the COVID-19 although “we do not know how long they maintain immunity”. Irigoyen believes that for a year or a half, even an effective vaccine, it will be necessary to live with the virus and she is hopeful that with the summer the virus will go away. ” Lots of patience, ” she concludes.
The third researcher is Dr Rocio Teresa Martinez Núñez who is a lecturer in the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, King’s College London.
One day before the Government decreed a state of alarm, Martinez Núñez and her group brought four super robots to Spain that allow the analysis of massive tests of Covid19 test, the real bottleneck that Spain currently suffers in the necessary work of detection and prevention of the virus. Each robot can do 2,400 PCR tests daily so that the four units can perform nearly 70,000 analyses a week.
Rocío Martínez was the one who discovered to the rest of the group these robots and the great differential advantage they offer over the rest: they are ‘open’ (open source), and therefore valid for test kits of any brand, and adaptable to any protocol, something critical, considering that these vary from hospital to hospital.