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Testing to begin in metro Atlanta for COVID-19 vaccines

GeoVax has developed three different vaccine recipes or candidates to prevent COVID-19.

ATLANTA — From private companies to universities, doctors and researchers across metro Atlanta are currently involved in testing possible COVID-19 vaccines.

CEO David Dodd of Cobb County-based GeoVax first discussed his company's work toward a COVID-19 vaccine in January.

"In general -- and I stress the word in general -- we are able to develop the construct of the vaccine, meaning the basis of a vaccine to start some form of testing, animal testing, immunogenicity testing usually in three months," Dodd told 11Alive in January.

Right on schedule, Dodd said his team will begin testing a COVID-19 vaccine in the next one to two weeks, starting with animal testing.

"We are working on a timeline that would allow us to go forward through animal testing and enter human testing perhaps as early as the end of this year," Dodd said Tuesday.

He said his company was able to speed up the development of vaccine candidates by looking back at a 2002 viral outbreak.

"You may or may not know that 70 plus percent of the genetic structure of the SARS virus and COVID-19 are identical so one can learn a lot from that," Dodd mentioned.

GeoVax has developed three different vaccine recipes or candidates to prevent COVID-19. The goal of animal testing, Dodd said, is to find one successful vaccine that can then be used for human testing. 

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Inside the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress recently passed and President Donald Trump signed, is at least $3.5 billion in funding for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

BARDA is an agency within the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services overseeing the manufacturing, production, and purchasing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. 

Dodd said his company could find a boost during its research from BARDA and is currently being considered to receive a piece of the $3.5 billion in funding. 

"I've been in Washington D.C., I've been on the phone," Dodd said. "We have had a lot of good dialogue with Health and Human Services about our funding request."

Currently, at Emory University, Dr. Evan Anderson said adults are already enrolled in a separate clinical trial of a vaccine designed to prevent COVID-19. The trial began last week. 

"This study is moving very, very quickly. We were literally asked to be involved with helping to conduct the study just two weeks ago and here we are," Anderson said.

It is the first such vaccine to be tested in the U.S. Emory is the second location for the testing. 

The study, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began at its first location in Seattle earlier this month. 

Sean Doyle is one of the adults participating in the trial at Emory. 

"Seemed like one of the best ways to be able to contribute to the response would be to participate in this vaccine trial that Emory is conducting along with other institutions," Doyle said.

RELATED: Southwest Georgia one of the hardest-hit areas in the country for coronavirus

Back at GeoVax, Dodd said his team is hopeful human testing later this year will be successful and they can find an effective vaccine. 

"It certainly would not be for this year," Dodd mentioned. "It might be completed and ready for the ending of the following year."

Dodd said he takes pride in knowing his company or Georgia could play a role in finding a vaccine. 

"I would stress that the epicenter of prevention and therapeutics against various challenging pathogens is Metro Atlanta," Dodd said.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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