Potential Vaccine Made in San Diego, But There's a Catch

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A San Diego company is inching closer to finding a vaccine to the coronavirus, but, as NBC 7 Investigates found out, there’s a hitch no one is talking about

“We have seen this industry step up like never before,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at a press conference last month.

Faulconer was boasting about several biotech companies in our own backyard and their work toward finding a vaccine for the virus that brought our world to a halt.

“I’d like to introduce Joseph Payne with Arcturus Therapeutics,” said the mayor.

This week, Arcturus said it hit a home run.

This data is not a full representation of cases. Totals are based on patients' resident zip code, and are not a representation of where someone contracted COVID-19. Because not every single resident is tested regularly, officials with the County Health and Human Services Agency say the number of people infected with COVID-19 in the county is likely much higher than the reported total.

CEO Joseph Payne said Arcturus is the first company in the U.S. that can show its vaccine creates coronavirus antibodies in animals.

“It’s a big deal, guys,” said Payne in an interview this week. “This is a big deal.”

Human trials begin this summer.

“If we can confirm or repeat the results we just saw in animals,” Payne said, “then we are going to be in fantastic shape.”

There's just one catch.

The human trials aren’t taking place here, and if they’re successful, the vaccine will first go to people who live more than 8,800 miles away.

“That’s going to be the initial phase of this,” Payne said, “to help vaccinate Singapore.”

Payne said the government of Singapore approached his company back in January and paid for the vaccine development.

"The original funding came from Singapore absolutely,” Payne said. “But subsequent funding would then come from other countries, government agencies and/or foundations, and we will follow suit accordingly. Where those funds will come from, we'll then be able to supply vaccine to those different entities. And that's how this will likely play out."

Bottom line: Where the money goes, the vaccine will follow. And right now, the U.S. isn't even in line.

NBC 7 reached out to the FDA, but they had no comment. A representative said the agency does not discuss the application of any new drug under review.

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