major moment

2 Houston doctors nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for low-cost COVID vaccine

Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Dr. Peter Hotez have been nominated for their low-cost COVID vaccine. Photo courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine

He’s gained national and global acclaim for his battle against COVID-19 and for his efforts, Houston’s Dr. Peter Hotez has been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.

Hotez, and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were nominated for the iconic award by Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (Texas-07).

The duo, who are also co-directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, were cited in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for their work to develop and distribute the low-cost Corbevax vaccine to people of the world — without patent limitation.

“My hope is that the nomination not only recognizes the importance of reducing global vaccine inequities and inequalities, but also raises the awareness regarding the importance of vaccines as lifesaving interventions and combating vaccine hesitancy in the US and globally,” Hotez tells CultureMap.

As ABC13 reports, the Nobel nominations were due Monday, January 31. In March, a shortlist is prepared and then reviewed between April and August. The winners are announced in early October and they receive their awards in Oslo, Norway on December 10.

“Dr. Hotez and Dr. Bottazzi’s effort to develop the Corbevax vaccine is truly one of international cooperation and partnership to bring health, security, and peace around the world by creating a COVID-19 vaccine and making it available and accessible to all,” Fletcher said in a statement. “It is a contribution that is of the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Hotez, one of CultureMap’s most-talked-about Houstonians in 2021, added in a statement: “I am honored that Congresswoman Fletcher would nominate us for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Bottazzi and I have worked together for years, and our purpose has never changed — to bring attention to the neglected diseases of poverty and build a new generation of vaccine in the pursuit of global vaccine diplomacy. With our COVID vaccine, which is inexpensive and easy to produce, our intent was to make it available to millions of people in the world who would otherwise not have access to COVID vaccines.”

“When the COVID pandemic hit, we wanted to make a difference and had great confidence our coronavirus vaccine technology, previously developed, could lead to a global solution,” Bottazzi added. “Hopefully, it will be game changing for many countries.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


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