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The news from Mali

Here in Bamako, life is really not that much different from so many other countries. On the street, the average citizen is still hawking gasoline in glass bottles for 500 CFA, selling sunglasses at traffic stops, or herding goats across the road, all the while not wearing a mask because, well, what’s COVID?

There are, of course, signs that COVID is on the mind of heath care workers. There are hand washing stations at the entrance to Hope Center Clinic and a tall young man who will check your temperature with a dusty automatic temperature checker. The clinicians are much more willing to wear masks (provided that they have them) but, strangely enough still hesitant to get vaccinated. No COVID testing is done in primary care clinics. Maybe you can’t be afraid if you don’t know what’s coming in the door? I did my own mini survey while I was there – 8 out of 10 physicians had not been vaccinated despite vaccines being available (AstraZeneca). Imagine.

And meanwhile, politicians fight over the spoils. Supplies that are ordered for COVID wards are not delivered. Physicians caring for patients lack the most basic of supplies, like the face mask units that are used to provide patients with oxygen. There are 7-10 respirators at each of four COVID units (for a city of 2 million). While these centers are big, solid and new, and funded by international partners, on the inside, equipment and staffing remain slim. Despite the best efforts of the clinicians, patients often arrive so ill that rather than being the “reanimation unit” that it is supposed to be, the COVID intensive care unit appears to be the end of the line.

I was in Mali working with GAIA Vaccine Foundation on assessing vaccine hesitancy, a project funded by Merck (thank you!) and talking to collaborators about a heterologous prime-boost vaccine trial. EpiVax, currently developing a T cell driven COVID-19 vaccine, has pledged to provide a cost-free and royalty-free license to their vaccine to counties listed on the UN Least Developed Countries (LDC) list, which includes Mali. GAIA is currently running a fundraiser to provide much-needed PPE to West Africa. Check it out here!

I’m on my way home now, having ‘reset’ my internal moral compass

New Publications from the young turks at EpiVax

Director of Vaccine Research, Lenny Moise and collaborators just published “Highly conserved, non-human-like, and cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes for COVID-19 vaccine design and validation” in NPJ Vaccines. We have been vocal on the need for vaccine efforts to address T cell immunity, especially for booster shots, and this research supports and provides a framework for vaccine developers to work from.

Guilhem Richard, the Senior Computational Immunologist at our affiliate EpiVax Therapeutics, just described how Ancer, a platform for Precision Cancer Vaccines, was shown to be a superior method for predicting cancer survival outcomes in bladder cancer, as compared to TMB and NetMHCPan. Congratulations to Guilhem Richard, Randy Sweis, MD, and their teams for this important research.

EpiVax is committed to open access whenever possible. Check out our publication search tool here.

AAPS NBC

I always look forward to the AAPS National Biotechnology Conference, which is taking place (virtually!) this week. I have the great honor to be Vice Chair of NBC this year, although I hesitate to take any credit whatsoever for the great array of talks at the conference.

Frances Terry and I will be co-presenting new Tregitope research and the ISPRI platform at NBC. We’ve made some new discoveries that I think biologics developers will want to hear about. Looking forward to the discussion😊

Oh and don’t miss Aimee Mattei’s Poster Social! She’s an expert on handling unnatural amino acids as part of in silico immunogenicity risk assessment.

And next month EpiVax will be partnering at BIO International! We are looking forward to reconnecting with our global clients and research partners.