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Indian-American leads all-women team working to develop COVID-19 vaccine

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, March 30, 2020: An Indian-American woman is leading an all-women team that is working at developing a vaccine for COVID-19 in Maryland.

There are dozens of vaccines in the pipeline to prevent COVID-19. Among them is the team from Novavax, a late-stage biotechnology company, led by Nita Patel, Ph.D.

Dr. Patel is the director for vaccine development and antibody discovery at Novavax.

“I think in science, it’s more common for women to be in the lab than the guys,” Dr Patel told ABC 7, in an interview. “It’s encouraging for young girls to be a scientist. You know, I’m a woman and that’s really encouragement to see that somebody, women, brought the vaccine to the market. That’s awesome.” 

Novavax created the COVID-19 vaccine candidates using its proprietary recombinant protein nanoparticle technology platform to generate antigens derived from the coronavirus spike (S) protein. Novavax expects to utilize its proprietary Matrix-M™ adjuvant with its COVID-19 vaccine candidate to enhance immune responses.

“Our previous experience working with other coronaviruses, including both MERS and SARS, allowed us to mobilize quickly against COVID-19 and successfully complete the critical preliminary steps to engineer viable vaccine candidates,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax. “Now that the protein has been expressed stably in our baculovirus system, we aim to identify the optimal candidate and scale up production of sufficient vaccine for preliminary clinical trials. We are now well-positioned to advance the COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Phase I clinical testing in May or June.”

Dr. Patel joined Novavax from MedImmune, Inc. of Gaithersburg, MD where she was most recently Project Director, Regulatory Affairs focusing on global regulatory compliance, strategy and training for several products including MedImmune’s lead product, Synagis (Palivizumab), says an earlier press release from Novavax.

Dr. Patel has over 25 years of research and professional experience in both an R&D and pharmaceutical environment, with over 11 years in Quality and Regulatory Affairs. She also has extensive experience with domestic and international INDs, license applications, regulatory agency inspections, compliance (cGMP, GLP and GCP) and advertising and promotional regulatory management. Prior to joining MedImmune,

The Indian-American researcher headed the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Biotechnology Division at BioReliance Corporation. Dr. Patel has a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Queen Elizabeth College in London and a Ph.D. in Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology from University College in London. In her role as an educator and trainer, Dr. Patel has chaired and presented at numerous seminars and workshops covering topics such as crisis management, compliance and audits, biologics approval process and project management.

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