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Curiel, Diamond receive innovation award

Researchers recognized for developing COVID-19 nasal vaccine

June 22, 2023

Huy Mach

David T. Curiel, MD, PhD, and Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, both of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have received the Washington University Chancellor’s Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for their development of a nasal vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The vaccine, delivered via drops in the nose, was licensed to Bharat Biotech and approved for emergency use in India. In 2022, the Indian government granted emergency use authorization for the vaccine as a primary series of two doses and as a booster for people who have already received two doses of other COVID-19 vaccines.

Curiel, who is the Distinguished Professor of Radiation Oncology, and Diamond, who is the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine, created — along with members of their laboratories — the nasal vaccine in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early studies showed that nasal delivery of this vaccine creates a strong immune response throughout the body, but especially in the nose and respiratory tract. The university also licensed the technology to Ocugen Inc., a U.S.-based biotechnology company, for the vaccine’s development in the U.S., Europe and Japan.