PEGS-The Chain Episode 34

This episode of The Chain features a live panel discussion moderated by Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD of La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Expert panelists from academia and government assess the COVID-19 antibody and vaccine development thus far, including what did and did not go well during the pandemic. They also look towards the future and the role mRNA vaccines may play for diseases like influenza, what we learned about the United States’ ability to manufacture during surge production, and what infrastructure is still needed to fight both the current crisis and future outbreaks.


Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD, Professor, La Jolla Institute for Immunology
Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD is a Professor of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Her research explains, at the molecular level, how and why viruses like Ebola and Lassa are pathogenic and provides the roadmap for medical defense. Her team has solved the structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Bundibugyo and Lassa virus glycoproteins, explained how they remodel these structures as they drive themselves into cells, how their proteins suppress immune function and where human antibodies can defeat these viruses. A recent discovery revealed why neutralizing antibodies had been so difficult to elicit against Lassa virus, and provided not only the templates for the needed vaccine, but the molecule itself: a Lassa surface glycoprotein engineered to remain in the right conformation to inspire the needed antibody response. This molecule is the basis for international vaccine efforts against Lassa. Dr. Saphire was also the galvanizing force behind the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium and is the Director of this organization. This consortium, an NIH-funded Center of Excellence in Translational Research, unites 44 previously competing academic, industrial and government labs across five continents to understand and provide antibody therapeutics against Ebola, Marburg, Lassa and other viruses. Dr. Saphire’s work has been recognized at the White House with the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, with young investigator awards from the International Congress of Antiviral Research, the American Society for Microbiology, and the MRC Centre for Virus Research in the United Kingdom. She has been awarded a Fulbright Global Scholar fellowship from the United States Department of State and a Mercator Fellowship from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, to develop international collaborations using cryoelectron microscopy to further global health.

Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, FASTMH, FAAP, Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine; Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology & Microbiology; Co-Head, Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine; Health Policy Scholar, Baylor College of Medicine
Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also the Director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. He is also University Professor at Baylor University, Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, Faculty Fellow with the Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies at Texas A&M University, and Health Policy Scholar in the Baylor Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. Dr. Hotez is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development. As head of the Texas Children’s CVD, he leads a team and product development partnership for developing new vaccines for hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and SARS/MERS/SARS-2 coronavirus, diseases affecting hundreds of millions of children and adults worldwide, while championing access to vaccines globally and in the United States.

Lakshmi Krishnan, PhD, Vice-President, Life Sciences, National Research Council Canada, Government of Canada
Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan is the Director General of the NRC's Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre. As a globally recognized researcher and expert in the field of infectious diseases and cancer, she is committed to the development of novel therapeutics and innovative solutions for the improvement of human health. Dr. Krishnan joined the NRC in 1998 and, as a research officer, built expertise in immunology research at the Institute for Biological Sciences, in the areas of vaccine adjuvant development and host pathogen interactions. Prior to her current appointment, she was the Program Lead for Vaccines and Immunotherapy (2015 to 2018) and Director of R&D for Immunobiology (2016 to 2018). Possessing extensive research expertise in the fields of vaccinology and therapeutics development, over the course of her career Dr. Krishnan has been the recipient of numerous competitive research grants from various agencies including the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH – USA). She also chairs the Federal Vaccine Research Innovation and Development committee, which consists of membership from 13 different federal departments across the Government of Canada. Dr. Krishnan received her Master's degree in Bio-medical Genetics from the University of Madras (India) and PhD in Immunology from the National Institute of Immunology in India, following which, she completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Alberta through an Alberta Heritage Foundation scholarship. She serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ottawa and has mentored many graduate students. She also volunteers with several organizations for mentoring leadership skills among youth, has published over 70 primary research articles in peer-reviewed journals, and is listed as an inventor on several patents.

Peter W. Marks, MD, PhD, Director, FDA CBER
Peter Marks received his graduate degree in cell and molecular biology and his medical degree at New York University and completed Internal Medicine residency and Hematology/Medical Oncology training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He has worked in academic settings teaching and caring for patients and in industry on drug development.  He joined the FDA in 2012 as Deputy Center Director for CBER and became Center Director in January 2016.

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