UPMC vaccine research

UPMC Photo

Dr. Louis Falo, professor and chairman of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, talks about a potential COVID-19 vaccine in an April press conference. Dr. Andrea Gambotto, associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is in the background. Falo and Gambotto were the senior authors on the vaccine paper. The UPMC vaccine development will receive a state COVID-19 research grant.


HARRISBURG -- The state will provide $10 million in state grant funding for 23 projects aimed at developing vaccines or therapies to prevent or treat COVID-19, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

The funding will go to Pennsylvania-based businesses, universities and hospitals statewide.

“We know that the only way we can get back to our normal lives is by developing a robust testing and tracing infrastructure combined with effective, safe and affordable treatments and vaccines, Wolf said. “The funding awarded today will jumpstart a number of promising projects that would help Pennsylvania overcome this devastating global pandemic, setting us on a path to recovery and protection both now and in the future.”

More than half the funding is targeted to help research into possible coronavirus vaccines with the biggest awards going to Drexel University researchers, who got $1 million toward developing a way to help vaccines provide better quality antibody protection for the elderly, and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research, which got $977,000 for a “broadly-deployable skin-targeted” vaccine.

In all the state awarded $6.8 million to 12 projects focused on developing vaccines for coronavirus.

In addition the state provided $1.2 million for five projects focused on improving therapies for the treatment of COVID-19. The state also provided $430,000 to the Bucks County Biotechnology Center to convert warehouse space into 6,000 square-feet of research space for use by biotechnology companies focusing on COVID-19 research.

Dennis Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, said that about 70 applicants sought funding.

In picking the winning grant applicants, state officials were seeking to pick projects where funding would have the “best opportunity to advance their technology,” Davin said.

Davin said it’s not clearly how quickly any of the funded research will be ready for regulatory approval.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “This funding is a crucial part in making sure we are doing as much as we can,” he said.

The program, announced last month, was made available to Pennsylvania-based entities that demonstrate both a financial need and a well-defined pathway to the accelerated commercialization of a new vaccine, treatment or therapy in direct response to fight against COVID-19.

Funding for the program was appropriated from the Act 2A of 2020, signed by Wolf in May. The law allocated a portion of the state’s share of money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act.