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SKY TG24, interview with Pietro Di Lorenzo Sky Sky TG24 – 24th April

ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT

MORENO MARINOZZI

Let’s go back, as promised, to Raffaella Cesaroni, because we want to talk about how the vaccine is coming along, or rather how close we are to finding the vaccine. Raffaella you have with you a rather special guest.

RAFFAELLA CESARONI

Yes, I’m with Piero Di Lorenzo, Managing Director of Advent IRBM, a multinational company in the field of biotechnology. Good morning Sir.

PIERO DI LORENZO

Good morning.

RAFFAELLA CESARONI

I just want to first set the scene … you are one of the participants in this scramble, challenge, race, whatever you want to call it, but in the end, yesterday in a report I produced, I said that this race for the vaccine is of great benefit to us all. So, your so-called candidate vaccine (the World Health Organization has indicated there are currently 70 that are ready for phase 1) indeed began phase 1 yesterday; so by having the first human trials, have you skipped all the possible and imaginable stages and that’s why you are testing it, is that the case?

PIERO DI LORENZO

Yes, that’s true. Yesterday in England, in Oxford, tests began on 510 healthy volunteers, in actual fact the total number is 1020 but 510 of these have been injected with a placebo, precisely so that scientists can understand what is going on in one vaccinated community compared to the other. These volunteers will be tested and monitored for several months. We think we will have an answer as to the efficacy, the degree of efficacy of this vaccine, candidate vaccine, by the end of September.

RAFFAELLA CESARONI

So this means that in this experimental phase, these human trials, because of the pandemic, the animal testing phase has been skipped and to some extent the human trial has also been brought forward, this could lead to the first vaccine being produced in the Pomezia plant, here on the outskirts of Rome. It would then be immediately administered to those in the at-risk categories, specifically health workers, doctors, nurses and the police.

PIERO DI LORENZO

If, as we hope, the response from the test is positive by the end of September, we think that by the end of the year there may be a considerable number of doses available to use. Clearly in such a situation, as the British Health Minister said in his press conference the day before yesterday, the first doses of the vaccine will obviously be used for the categories that are most at risk and most vulnerable. I would add that in a situation such as this, with a pandemic that is devastating the world, despite we are already in a position to increase our production capacity of vaccine doses ten fold, despite the fact that the whole world is striving to keep up with this pandemic, the vaccine doses that will gradually be produced will not be sufficient in number for mass vaccination. Let’s not forget, there are 8 million of us, so I think it will come down to physiology and will be normal to start with the categories that are most at risk and most vulnerable.

RAFFAELLA CESARONI

So this candidate vaccine is the product of a prestigious partnership between yourselves who, as I said, are based on the outskirts of Rome in Pomezia, and the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. I’ say this is an excellent partnership because together you have developed the anti-Ebola vaccine so the friendship goes back a long way, your working group is made up of dozens and dozens of cutting-edge scientists.

PIERO DI LORENZO

So, this specific partnership has come about because the Jenner Institute at Oxford University is hugely skilled in managing the family of coronaviruses, because it has already developed the MERS vaccine, which is currently in clinical phase 2 in Saudi Arabia. They know this family of viruses very well and were able to synthesize the gene of the spike protein within a couple of weeks from when the Chinese posted the gene sequencing on the internet. We have consolidated expertise with the adenovirus, i.e. the shuttle, the vehicle that carries the synthesized gene of the protein into the body and that we developed when we produced a million doses of the Ebola vaccine. I would like to stress one thing: we are honoured and grateful that a prestigious institution such as Oxford University, which is actually more than a university, I’d say it’s a multinational, called upon us to make our contribution at this time. The very fact that they chose us to do this is very significant for us.

RAFFAELLA CESARONI

Well by the same token the work you are doing is very important to us too, we wish the very best luck to you and the whole team of scientists because our lives are in your hands, Moreno, over to you.

PIERO DI LORENZO

Thank you

MORENO MARINOZZI

And good luck from me too Mr. Di Lorenzo.

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