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Piero Di Lorenzo – IRBM produced the first batch of vaccines La7 Coffee Break – 17th March

ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT

PRESENTER

OK I’ll go to Piero di Lorenzo straight away, meanwhile I’ll pass on two bits of news: “Authorities in Germany have said that from today the infection risk is very high; in France, as a clear illustration of what is happening, the Lourdes Shrine has closed. So there is a total lockdown of everything. Prime Minister Conte also spoke a little while ago and reiterated that this is obviously a very difficult time and that Italy must show itself more united than ever before. So, Piero Di Lorenzo, Pomezia, on the outskirts of Rome, IRBM Science Park: you’re working on a vaccine. We’re speaking to you a couple of weeks on to find out what the situation is now. How is the work of your researchers going?

PIERO DI LORENZO

Yesterday we started producing the first batch of vaccines. Having characterized the adeno-virus and completed the related purification process, we started producing the vaccine. We expect to be ready by the end of May with the first doses to be used for the trials on mice. By the end of June, if the mice trials have not shown any toxicities or negative things, as we hope and expect, we are hopeful and optimistic that we can move on to humans.

PRESENTER

What does this mean? Once you get to the human trials, which, as Professor Vella and Di Lorenzo know very well, is divided into several stages, how long does this phase last?

PIERO DI LORENZO

The protocols require 3 clinical phases: 1, 2 and 3. Each of these 3 phases, according to the rules and the validated protocols, can last up to twelve or eighteen months. Obviously if the epidemic should become more worrying, if the situation should degenerate, the regulatory authorities may consider the need to shorten this time drastically.

PRESENTER

Yes.

PIERO DI LORENZO

Stefano Vella is well aware of how this works because he has experienced it first hand. I want to underline one thing: it’s a pleasure to see a scientist on a television broadcast. It means that finally the era when “anyone who has read a newspaper article can pontificate” is over and we’re putting science first in every field: particularly in the field of biomedical science. Finally we have rediscovered the pleasure of listening to people who have studied all their lives to work on something rather than people who just talk drivel.

PRESENTER

Yes, you’re right to underline it Piero Di Lorenzo, let’s hope that even after the emergency is over, which we hope will happen as soon as possible, we’ll continue to keep this firmly in our minds, not only because of how our national health service works and is working, thanks to everyone’s self-sacrifice, and, making a quick foray into Stefano Vella’s field, remember the importance of research, which is so mistreated in our country.

STEFANO VELLA

I am sure about one thing: this virus is no doubt a nasty creature. It is transmitted very quickly. It won’t go away. We are trying to give it a clobbering. Doctors, nurses and ordinary people are trying to defeat it. People will be saved by research. It will save us because technologies have progressed. Many teams are working on drugs and vaccines. Remember AIDS? Drugs were eventually developed. They will come for this as well, and they’ll save us. As I said, we need to be optimistic, this virus has now come between us.

PRESENTER

Do we have to learn to live with it?

STEFANO VELLA

Absolutely, this virus won’t go back to where it came from, it is now one of our common germs.

PRESENTER

Yes, that’s very clear.

STEFANO VELLA

So this virus will come back, it will be here. How do we suppress it? With the vaccine. There are many groups, including IRBM, that are famous for having produced lots of vaccines. Di Lorenzo is right. Remember the Ebola vaccine? It was made and deployed in a very short time. Objectively, while ensuring total safety for people, by shortening the timescale, a vaccine was fielded in a very short time. In fact the latest epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo was contained. I am sure that, and I say this to reassure people, while we have to stay strong because the situation is dramatic, and there are too many deaths, too many injured people, so we have to stay strong, I am sure that research, and I represent Italy in the European research program, has deployed… almost 500 million immediately through public tenders, and there are many European research institutions working together, in fact, as we have always hoped, collaboration is starting between the public and private sectors.  Because this is the method that will work.

PRESENTER

This collaboration is crucial in every area of our lives, because otherwise…

STEFANO VELLA

In research above all, because there is a lot of academic research, which has to work with industrial research, which is where things are developed. If this collaboration works, that is what will ultimately save us from future problems.

PRESENTER

So I want to say goodbye to Piero Di Lorenzo pointing out that…

PIERO DI LORENZO

I’m sorry…

PRESENTER

Go ahead.

PIERO DI LORENZO

I’m sorry, I’d like to add something to what Stefano Vella said, because I feel it is very important. Yesterday and today, many newspapers reminded us of a speech given by Bill Gates four years ago in which he envisaged that: The next war won’t be against an enemy with missiles, but against viruses. That’s where we are now, unfortunately we didn’t listen to him enough. In this respect I would like you file one piece of news in your memory bank. Three years ago there was a Zika epidemic in Lazio, only one person was infected after being stung by a mosquito. This caused a massive state of alarm. Commendably and bravely, Governor Zingaretti, together with Vice President Smeriglio, took steps to launch a research program and, with a public-private consortium, going back to what Vella was saying earlier, research into the Zika virus started. We worked as part of this consortium for the Zika virus and viruses in the same family for 2 years. The newspapers engaged in an idiotic controversy, saying that: “The virus was in Brazil and the Lazio Region is wasting money from Lazio’s taxpayers to do the research”. The Zika virus might be in Brazil but it doesn’t need a passport to come to Italy and Europe…

PRESENTER

We realized this, and how!

PIERO DI LORENZO

If something happens, God forbid, remember that the funding ends in June. That research will not be funded again, I’m sure about that, because of the controversy in the press. Pull out this bit of the broadcast when, God forbid, this happens.

PRESENTER

No, no, let’s hope not. We already have our hands full with the Coronavirus. So thank you to Piero Di Lorenzo. Good luck of course to you and all the IRBM researchers in your work.

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