California-based Scottish scientist hails UK efforts to tackle coronavirus

A Scottish scientist leading attempts to develop a vaccine to combat coronavirus has challenged other countries to follow the UK’s lead and fund their efforts.

Dr Kate Broderick heads up a team of experts at the pharmaceutical giant Inovio in San Diego, California, who are working around the clock to have a DNA vaccine ready by December.

She revealed her efforts are being spurred on by her family – her husband is immunocompromised, while her sister is a nurse working in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Dr Kate Broderick with her husband Steve and their children (Department for International Development/PA)

The UK has announced a further £210 million towards research – making it the biggest international contributor – with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying “this record British funding will help to find a vaccine for the entire world”.

Welcoming the cash, Dr Broderick said: “I am really proud that the UK Government has made this absolutely phenomenal gesture and I think that really says a lot about how seriously Boris Johnson is taking the pandemic.

“The fact that the UK Government has made such a generous donation will hopefully encourage other countries to follow their lead.

“This is a lesson to everybody globally that governments can be leaders in providing support for this work and frankly this is crucial because if we don’t have the funding behind it, it is just going to slow down the process of getting these vaccines out there.

“Tragically, there are so many people dying around the world every day from coronavirus, so every day counts.”

The 42-year-old University of Glasgow graduate added: “The reality is that vaccine development costs money and it takes time but you can do it faster if you have more funding – so to get such a significant investment from the UK can make a genuine difference to the timeline for this.

“Every investment helps bring forward the date that the vaccine is ready and can save countless lives.”

Proud to see our coronavirus R&D lead Dr. Kate Broderick on @60Minutes discussing INOVIO’s #DNAmedicines & our efforts to develop a #DNAvaccine vs. #COVID19pic.twitter.com/K7VOhGSy5o

— INOVIO Pharmaceuticals (@InovioPharma) March 22, 2020

The team she leads is now hoping to start human clinical trials next month, with Inovio working towards having a million doses of vaccine ready by December – either for further trials or for emergency use, as determined by the regulatory authorities.

Dr Broderick said: “Using the data that we generate from human clinical testing next month, we will go to regulatory authorities and hope to demonstrate that the vaccine’s safe, it does what we want it to do and that we would like to move forward to testing this vaccine on people who really need it.”

The mother-of-two, originally from Dunfermline in Fife, revealed her own family’s fears about the virus are helping her drive forward the work.

She said: “My husband Steve is immune-compromised so we have to be uber-careful.

“It means that the kids are very much aware about my work.

“They know why mummy’s not around as much as I’d want to be right now.”

She added: “My family are all in Scotland and my sister’s actually a nurse for the NHS at the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow and she’s certainly hoping we can help get that vaccine out there as soon as possible.

“My sister has been very worried going on to the wards.

“She’s been treating several positive patients and she is genuinely worried about coming home at night and was saying that she has been trying to get out of her uniform in the back garden before stepping into the house.”

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