San Diego Biotech Firms Hailed for Coronavirus Vaccine Research

Two San Diego-based biotech companies, Arcturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceutical, are making major headway in COVID-19 vaccine development

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Two San Diego-based biotech companies are full steam ahead developing coronavirus vaccines that could help save millions of lives.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer highlighted the companies, Arcturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceutical, Friday at his daily press conference, and gave representatives from each time on the podium to share how they’re coming closer to curing COVID-19.

“We have seen this industry step up like never before, to address this global pandemic that we’re facing,” the mayor said.

Inovio is seeing progress in its vaccination quest like no one else has. The firm received a genetic sequence of COVID-19 from China on Jan. 10, and within three hours had a vaccine design. The company was able to immediately start manufacturing and testing the vaccine, and will begin human clinical trials in early April.

Dr. Kate Broderick, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at Inovio, said the speed of their vaccine development is unprecedented globally. Even still, according to Broderick, vaccine consumption could still be 12-24 months away.

Broderick said the company hopes to have 1 million doses ready by end of year.

 “If there’s a single positive thing to come out of the situation that would end today, it’s the solidarity that I’ve witnessed personally in the scientific field of people coming together, sharing information, sharing knowledge, sharing reagent, sharing tools, because if we work together, we’ll get to a solution faster,” Broderick said.

Arcturus is making headlines for its research toward developing a n easily manufacturable, logistic friendly single-shot vaccine.

Their vaccine is effective in very low doses, according to company CEO Joseph Payne.

On the podium, Payne invited guests to examine their own thumbs, which on average are about 10 grams each. Ten grams of Arcturus’ vaccine, could vaccinate the entire country of Singapore, Payne said.

Singapore reached out to Arcturus in early 2020 and is already preparing for clinical trials there, which would be regulated and approved by Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority.

Because of its concentrated nature, Arcturus’ vaccine is easily transportable and easy to make, and advancing it to a single-shot vaccine rather than a shot and a booster would add to that efficiency, according to Payne.

“The demand for this vaccine, the world has never seen anything like it,” Payne said. “There’s never been 2 billion people that want a product, not even the iPhone.”

Mayor Faulconer also praised UC San Diego Health for its clinical drug trial collaboration with other San Diego companies. One trail started this week and another is scheduled to begin next week, according to Dr. Robert Schooley, Co-Director of the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics.

UC San Diego engineers have also been using 3D printers to manufacture parts for ventilators and respirator equipment.

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