Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
featured top story

From Seattle to South Korea: How UW researchers are making a global impact through COVID-19 vaccine development

  • 0
Medical research illustration

In 2020, a self-assembling nanoparticle vaccine developed by UW researchers demonstrated ultra-potency in a preclinical study. Now named GBP510, the vaccine recently advanced through a Phase 3 clinical trial led by SK bioscience, a biopharmaceutical company in South Korea.

Development of the vaccine was a collaboration between the labs of assistant professor of biochemistry Neil King, associate professor of biochemistry David Veesler, and the Institute for Protein Design (IPD).

Lexi Walls, a principal scientist in Veesler’s lab, said the nanoparticle technology of GBP510 allowed it to induce high overall neutralizing antibody responses in the Phase 3 clinical trial, indicating its safety and efficacy.

In March, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pre-purchased 10 million doses of the vaccine for use in South Korea. If approved for emergency use listing by the World Health Organization, GBP510 will be available for worldwide distribution through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access.

In the meantime, SK bioscience will continue to conduct clinical trials on boosters, age groups, and the efficacy of GBP510 against COVID-19 variants, which could further expand the vaccine’s use and access. 

According to Walls, the global impacts of GBP510 were made possible by innovative collaborations between medical and scientific communities. An example of this was rapid data sharing through preprint servers and social media, which the pandemic made mainstream.

“Science really does move quicker and better when you combine diverse experience and expertise, and share knowledge as quickly as possible,” Walls said. “This vaccine is just one example of those powers combining.”

With five years of experience studying coronaviruses in graduate school, Walls was “ready to hit the ground running for this pandemic from a scientific stance” when COVID-19 first emerged in 2019.

However, this was not the case for everyone on the vaccine development team. Marcos Miranda, a research scientist in the IPD, said he initially knew little about coronaviruses, so it has been valuable to learn from collaborators like Walls throughout the pandemic. This has also shaped where Miranda wants to take his work in the future.

Most Popular Stories

“In college, I really wanted to use my public health, global health, and microbiology degrees to work on the front lines of epidemics,” Miranda said. “I still have that goal, but it’s just evolved to prevent the next epidemic or pandemic.”

Miranda said being a part of this team has been a unique opportunity; he never imagined that he would be involved in such influential research this early on in his career.

“I had only started my first full time job out of college a few months before the pandemic and to be given the opportunity to work on such an impactful and meaningful project was truly only something I ever dreamed about,” Miranda said.

Miranda and Walls were both involved in undergraduate research, which they credit for helping them advance their careers. For current students who are looking to pursue research experiences, Walls encourages them to explore fields of interest.

“When you get a result in the lab, no one else in the world knows the answer to that question yet, and it is an incredibly exciting feeling to build a story of novel research to share with the world,” Walls said. “I think that hopeful scientists will have the most fun and be most driven towards an area that they find fascinating already.”

Reach reporter Shannon Hong at Twitter: @shannonjhhong

Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Top News Articles

Top Arts Articles

Top Opinion Articles

Top Sports Articles