Greek scientists around the world are at the forefront of finding a vaccine for COVID-19. We look at some of the top names in the race towards a COVID-19 cure.
Albert Bourla of Pfizer
Dr Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said the world “can see light at the end of the tunnel,” after the US pharmaceutical giant announced its coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 for those who had not shown previous infection.
“Given how effective this vaccine is, and we are aware that the demand will be much higher than anything we can produce, we are also looking right now to see if there are other ways, thinking out of the box, that we can increase even further the manufacturing capacity,” Dr Bourla told CNBC.
The Greek business and veterinarian who serves as the chairman of Pfizer has been with the company since 1993. Before that, he was born a Jew in Thessaloniki, and earned his doctorate in Biotechnology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s Veterinary School. He left Greece at the age of 34 and still has a home in Chalkidiki.
Greek geneticist Menelas Pangalos, the Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneka, from Chios is part of the team creating the vaccine, called AZD1222. The vaccine is under development in collaboration with UK-based global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Trial results published in the Lancet medical journal earlier this year found that the strongest response was seen in people who received two doses. He said the company hoped the COVID-19 vaccine it was developing with the University of Oxford would “be effective for at least a year, maybe longer.”
The British neurosurgeon was born in Ealing to a family of Greek diaspora. Both his parents descended from the island of Chios and his mother was born there. He spent all his childhood summers on the island and is fluent in Greek. Following his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (First Class Honours) from Imperial College London and subsequent PhD in Neuropharmacology from University College London, he conducted his training under the tutelage of Professor N. K. Robakis at the Mount Sinai Medical Center of New York.
George Yancopoulos, co-founder of Regeneron Pharmaceutical, is the Greek American biomedical scientist behind Donald Trump’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail. The holder of more than 100 patents, Dr Yancopoulos is the principal inventor and developer of Regeneron’s six FDA-approved medicines, as well as of Regeneron’s foundational technologies for target and drug development, such as its proprietary TRAP technology, and the VelociGene and VelocImmune antibody technologies.
“We were contacted by the White House on 1 October, just two days after we had announced the results of the clinical trials. We got the process moving and were able to get emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to administer the cocktail. There were, as you can understand, extensive discussions with his medical team and we decided to go ahead because he was the ideal candidate,” he told Kathimerini newspaper.
“This cocktail is particularly effective in patients in the early stages of COVID-19, with a high viral load, who have mild to moderate symptoms and whose body has not had a chance – or cannot because of a weak immune system – to produce antibodies. That last factor is absolutely essential. And of course it is not recommended for people who have a high risk of side effects of the disease because of age or underlying health problems.”
Along with Dr Yancopoulos, Dr Christos Kyratsos from Kozani, and Dr Roy Vagelos from Pindaros are also working with Regeneron for a COVID-19 vaccine.