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Tito's Handmade Vodka gives $1M for COVID-19 vaccine research

The vodka company provided a grant to Baylor College of Medicine.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's own Tito's Handmade Vodka has provided a million-dollar grant to Baylor College of Medicine as they work to research a vaccine for COVID-19.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor, and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, currently serve as co-directors of the Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development, which develops vaccines for neglected and emerging tropical diseases that affect those living in poverty across the world.

Their team is using work started in 2011 to develop an SARS vaccine. They plan to repurpose it and accelerate a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This strategy will rely on the information they have already compiled during the development of the SARS vaccine, as well as prior work, to allow for the acceleration of an effective coronavirus vaccine.

“Everything we do at Tito’s is rooted in giving back to the communities we serve, and this pandemic is no exception,” said Dr. Sarah Everett, director of global impact and research at Tito’s. “There are dozens of potential vaccines currently in development by scientists across the globe. We applaud the worldwide effort to fund and support vaccines that look promising, because we can never know in advance which ones will be effective. We’re proud to support Dr. Hotez, Dr. Bottazzi and their team’s work to improve humanity’s odds of success against COVID-19 and future coronavirus mutations.”

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“It’s an honor to work with Tito’s on this life-saving initiative, which we hope will ultimately lead to a vaccine for America,” added Dr. Hotez. “Our vision is that it would also advance as a low-cost global health vaccine, now that COVID-19 is racing through Latin American nations, such as Ecuador and Brazil, in addition to South Asia.”  

“Our coronavirus vaccine is designed in Texas and tested in Texas with the utmost priority to ensure it is safe and effective,” Dr. Bottazzi said. “To now see that it will be supported by Texas-based Tito’s is a testament that our state will be recognized as being at the forefront of this pandemic, making a difference and reaching all populations locally and globally.”

The $1 million grant will help researchers work with remaining vaccine manufacturing activities and supports a partnership with PATH, a worldwide nonprofit dedicated to improving public health, to push the vaccine past the regulatory phase. It will then allow them to speed up the timeline for the vaccine to move into human trials. Then, once that initial safety trial is finished, the vaccine will be poised to move on to its advanced clinical development, paving the way for it to possibly become a globally accessible vaccine.

For more information on the Baylor College of Medicine, click here. For more information about Tito's philanthropic arm, "Love, Tito's," click here.

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