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Oxford expert from Flanders close to COVID-19 vaccine

Flanders has been a beacon for innovation for many years. Research and development in the pharmaceutical sector in particular is deeply embedded in the region. Thanks to an excellent educational system and the high quality of scientific research, Flanders produces many talented researchers. In the worldwide race toward a vaccine for COVID-19, Bruno Holthof – an expert from Flanders who is now CEO of Oxford University Hospitals – is the one to watch. 

Oxford's brainpower leads the way

While researchers all over the globe race against time to find a viable vaccine for COVID-19, Oxford University is leading the pack. They have one man to thank: Bruno Holthof, once the head of Flanders’ largest clinic (UZA in Antwerp) and currently CEO of Oxford University Hospitals. Holthof is overseeing an ambitious plan to innovate and expand the existing hospital site.  

Little did he know that stopping a worldwide pandemic would become one of his responsibilities. He realized a shift in researchers, doctors, nurses and even students to develop “an entire ecosystem that is crucial for the turbocharged development of a vaccine in a hypercompetitive environment like ours,” Holthof explains. 

'Right on course to saving the world'

Along with fellow researchers Sarah Gilbert and Paul Klenerman, Holthof is on the verge of a breakthrough. The researchers are hopeful they will have a workable vaccine by winter 2020 if ongoing trials show that the vaccine safely protects people against the coronavirus. According to the American press, this is almost a reality. Yet, the British are conservative when it comes to discussing their progress. “We're optimistic, but we still don't know if it works,” says Professor Andrew Pollard, who is leading the trial.  

The new vaccine is a derivative of the one developed years ago for the MERS coronavirus. This allowed the Oxford researchers to advance their testing more rapidly, because the MERS vaccine had already been proven safe. 

Flanders unites talent in global fight

The many initiatives sprouting up in Flanders to battle COVID-19 illustrate that unity, in domains ranging from prevention and health care to scientific research and beyond, is the way forward. Browse through this impressive overview to find out just how Flanders is helping to halt the spread of the pandemic. And while you’re at it, discover the region’s world-class expertise in a wide variety of domains: 

  • Leveraging Flanders’ thriving biopharmaceutical industry, American pharma giant Johnson & Johnson joined forces with the Rega Institute for Medical Research of KU Leuven in the search for a vaccine. 

  • Flanders is also home to many leading academic and research institutes that are working nonstop to analyze both the medical and societal impact of the coronavirus outbreak.  

  • The region’s numerous medtech firms have roles to play as well, proposing new products and solutions in response to related medical challenges, like MaterialiseMedicCleanAirElmediX and Techventures, just to name a few.  

More info

Oxford Vaccine Group
Reported by
'De Tijd’ newspaper
13 August 2020

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