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RAI 3, TGR Lonardo – 21st April

ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT

PRESENTER

Yes, in the coming days these doses will leave Italy, destined for the UK; a trial vaccine. On the line is Piero Di Lorenzo, Managing Director of IRBM, the company based in Pomezia, near Rome. Mr. Di Lorenzo, this coronavirus vaccine is quite a race, do you feel like you’re in with a good chance?

PIERO DI LORENZO

Well, by this weekend, by next week, we will be sending to Oxford the batch of vaccine we have prepared for the clinical trials on healthy volunteers. I heard in the report that it normally takes 5, 6, 7 years to approve a vaccine. In this particular case it is easy to see why the regulatory authorities are drastically reducing these timescales. In our particular case we feel we have reached a good stage because we have combined two areas of expertise, including the extensive knowledge the Jenner Institute at Oxford University has about the family of coronaviruses, as it has already produced the MERS vaccine, which is already undergoing phase 2 of the human trial in Saudi Arabia. They synthesized the notorious spike protein, the gene of the spike protein, which they sent it to us in Pomezia. Using our experience gained from working on the Ebola vaccine, we then characterized the adenovirus and, after a purification process, we produced the first doses of the vaccine.

PRESENTER

So, you have effectively been working hand in hand; to put it simply we might say it’s as if one of you had worked on the bodywork of the vehicle while the other took care of what was inside.

PIERO DI LORENZO

I have drawn a comparison myself and said how very honoured we have been to be asked to work alongside Oxford University in producing this vaccine. As an example, I said it was as if we had been asked by Ferrari to supply the tires for the Grand Prix.

PRESENTER

Alright, I just wanted to ask you quickly: you have said on other occasions that we can’t expect to be getting vaccinations as soon as autumn or winter, even though the timescale for developing the vaccine has been shortened.

PIERO DI LORENZO

The timescales have been shortened as regards the approval process, as I was saying; we are starting off with a trial on 550 healthy volunteers, that is being run by the Jenner Institute. They are already selecting the volunteers, within a few days we will be sending them the vaccine and they will carry out the vaccinations. The real problem is that once the vaccine has been scientifically approved, we move onto the production phase. Bearing in mind that the production capacity of all the multinationals put together currently amounts to 200 million doses a year, and given that there are 8 billion of us, it is easy to work out how long this will take.

PRESENTER

Stay with us, I’m going to show you something else.

PIERO DI LORENZO

Of course

PRESENTER

Mr. Di Lorenzo, two brief answers please, do you believe that organizations, institutes and scientists who are in such close competition should be coordinating their work?

PIERO DI LORENZO

It’s what I have always asked for and I still believe that public-private collaboration is the foundation of beneficial industrial research. There are a thousand obstacles to overcome, not least the issue of the tension witnessed recently between Europe and the United States.

PRESENTER

But could whoever it is that scores the goal here not play again for the rest of their life? What’s the business behind this?

PIERO DI LORENZO

What I can tell you is that this market, let’s call it that, the market is so vast, the need is so great that all those who are working in development, those who will be making the vaccine, will have their piece of the pie and will get their glory, financially speaking. At the moment I think it’s more of a race to the finish because the 5, 6, 7 who do make the vaccine will all end up being in pharmacies.

PRESENTER

Thank you Mr. Di Lorenzo, thank you.

PIERO DI LORENZO

Thank you.

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