Could the next COVID vaccine be developed right here in Cincinnati?

Posted at 11:31 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 19:30:22-05

Susana Ibarra is a mom of two, a wife and a business woman. She migrated here from Mexico City and now lives in Loveland, where her catering business is suffering greatly due to the virus.

Ibarra is also volunteering as a test subject for what could be the nation's third COVID-19 vaccine right here in the Tri-State.

“You have to be part of something important to make this world better, I think,” Ibarra said.

Dr. Antoinette Pragalos is an investigator at CTI, a Greater Cincinnati company that researches major medical issues. She's also working behind the scenes to find the latest treatments.

“We’re doing COVID studies -- both treatment and vaccine,” Pragalos said.

Like most of us, Ibarra knows people who have died from the virus, which is one of the reasons she decided to allow the team to study the Janssen vaccine’s effects on her body. She has sat by helplessly while seeing people isolated from family and watching the jobless rate tick up.

“It’s just like it’s like living a nightmare,” Ibarra said.

Susana Ibarra gets bloodwork done as part of her participation in what could be a new COVID vaccine developed locally.

CTI would have as many as 150 studies going on globally pre-pandemic, said founder Tim Schroeder. These days, COVID is priority No. 1.

“Many people are focused on the impact of COVID itself, but the secondary impact is on research in general,” Schroeder said.

Doctors say long-term, complicated studies with ill but hopeful patients were shut down.

“You didn’t want to bring, for instance in a cancer study, bring people with cancer into a place where we were worried about COVID,” Pragalos said.

“And the question is: How do you in your best way possible continue to move things forward?” Schroeder said. “So, technology, use of phones, use of video. You know, obviously we’ve gone to telemedicine for a lot of things.”

His team is developing ways to research from afar.

“Whether it’s wearables," Schroeder said. "Whether it’s implantables. Whether it’s artificial intelligence. Whether it’s the use of things like drones.”

Drones, he said, could be used to get medical supplies to an individual.

“What does research look like 10 years from now and how much of that did we advance over the last 10 months?” Schroeder said.

Pragalos agrees. She said the science community is also examining what was held back in the last 10 months.

“You have to pick back up and start, sometimes, a little bit all over with getting the numbers and how the patients are responding and their bloodwork and all that," Pragalos said. "I like to think of it as more of a delay. We don’t know how much a delay it is going to be."

CTI hopes to get FDA emergency approval for the Janssen vaccine by March.