Dr. Anthony Fauci praises UT researcher’s role in vaccine development

Dr. Anthony Fauci gave remarks while accepting the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership from Dell Medical School. (Screenshot via The University of Texas)
Dr. Anthony Fauci gave remarks while accepting the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership from Dell Medical School. (Screenshot via The University of Texas)

Dr. Anthony Fauci gave remarks while accepting the Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership from Dell Medical School. (Screenshot via The University of Texas)

During a discussion with leaders from Dell Medical School and the Travis County Medical Society, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the research that led to the development of the coronavirus vaccine “spectacular.” Fauci specifically pointed to the research of Jason McLellan, an associate professor of molecular biosciences at The University of Texas whose work alongside members of National Institutes of Health over the past decade led to the development of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

“That’s an example of . . . the interface between fundamental basic research that’s done five and ten years ago and the translation of that into an intervention that is groundbreaking,” Fauci said. “The fundamental basic science that [The University of Texas] supports is just spectacular.”

McLellan, who leads a lab of epidemiologists at UT, began working on vaccine research with NIAID partners in 2008. His team announced the discovery of the attacking “spike protein” common to coronaviruses in 2016 and developed a method to lock the protein into its original shape, promoting the production of antibodies in cells.

The McLellan Lab at UT used that base of research to help develop a vaccine for COVID-19 when the genome sequence for coronavirus was released in January. With a well-established foundation of research, the team was able to collaborate with Pfizer and Moderna to take vaccines to clinical trials by spring. By the end of 2020, both vaccines were being administered to high-priority populations in the United States.

According to Fauci, it was only because of the decade of research put in by McLellan and others at the NIAID that allowed such a quick timeline, around 11 months from the genome sequence’s release to administering doses; Fauci said he was prepared to wait 12-18 months before seeing a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“If there was ever an example of the role of basic biomedical research in transforming how we’re responding to this historic pandemic—boy, I can’t think of a better one than that,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s lecture was given in honor of a prize awarded to him by Dell Medical School. The annual Ken Shine Prize in Health Leadership is given “to leaders who make significant advancements in health.” Fauci received the award for his contributions guiding the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more about local contributions to vaccine research here.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


Photo of a Joe's coffee barista handing off a drive-thru coffee
Jo's Coffee, other businesses bring new locations to north Central Austin

Four new businesses have recently opened in or are coming soon to north Central Austin.

If approved, the bill would also establish goals for emissions reductions by 2030, 2040 and 2050. (Courtesy James Talarico)
After Winter Storm Uri, Rep. James Talarico files climate action plan in Texas House

The Texas Climate Action Act would require the development of a climate action plan to help alleviate future climate-related disasters and establish goals for reducing emissions for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

A tree with fallen branches has fallen on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri.
Does your emergency repair need a city permit? Here is how you can find out

The city of Austin has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with repairs following February's winter storm.

Photo of Judge Brown in a mask and orange vest with megaphone
Travis County and 3 Central Texas neighbors to pilot mass vaccination site

Some 3,000 people will be vaccinated at a drive-thru event at the Circuit of The Americas this weekend.

Austin Water has lifted its boil-water notice for the city of Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Water lifts boil-water notice for all customers

Water quality tests have shown that city water is now safe to drink, and Austin Water continues to repair water mains and leaks.

Boil-water notices are still in place for some Austin residents. (Courtesy Pexels)
Austin dealing with ‘tens of thousands’ of water main breaks, officials say

Austin's water director said water main breaks during the winter storm were the likely culprit behind the draining of the city's reserves.

Photo of a desk with vials of Moderna vaccines on top
Austin Public Health resumes vaccinations, testing after weather-related delays

APH is currently in the process of rescheduling 3,300 vaccine appointments that were postponed beginning on Feb. 13.

Austin ISD staff at Pleasant Hill Elementary School distribute meals. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD offering free meals to children and caregivers Feb. 25

Austin ISD is distributing meals at 33 campuses across the city of Austin.

Photo of cars driving in the snow
Travis County sees surge of 911 calls, emergencies during winter storm

Sheriff's Office patrollers also responded to heightened calls regarding vehicle collisions and distressed motorists.

Austin Resource Recovery resumed curbside pickup of items such as trash, recycling and composting Feb. 22. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Crews will collect extra material curbside for no charge as service resumes in Austin

On their scheduled days, customers can leave extra material, such as trash, recycling and composting, on the curb with no fees after winter storms caused delays in service.

Austin Water lifted its boil water notice for customers within its central pressure zone the morning of Feb. 22. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Boil notice partially lifted in Austin, water service expected to be fully restored Feb. 22

Austin Water director Greg Meszaros said in a statement he expects service to be fully restored to all customers Feb. 22 and the boil notice to be fully lifted shortly thereafter.