Texas-based Tito’s Vodka giving $1M to Baylor College of Medicine for COVID-19 vaccine research

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AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Tito’s Vodka has joined the fight against COVID-19.

The company, based in Austin, has given a $1 million grant to the Baylor University College of Medicine to accelerate research into a vaccine for COVID-19.

According to Tito’s website, the grant will allow a team at BCM to continue working on a research project that may eventually yield a vaccine for COVID-19.

The project builds on work the team started in 2011 to develop a SARS vaccine, with the goal of repurposing it and accelerating a vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The team’s funding had been cut and the project shelved until Tito’s stepped in.

“Receiving this grant enables Dr. Peter Jay Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Dean and Associate Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, and their team to continue working on the first two stages of this vaccine’s development,” Tito’s said on its website.

“Once these two initial phases are complete, the team can then move forward with human safety trials and focus on their ultimate goal of not only introducing a COVID-19 vaccine suitable and accessible to the world, but also a vaccine that may fight future coronavirus outbreaks.”

“Everything we do at Tito’s is rooted in giving back to the communities we serve, and this pandemic is no exception,” said Dr. Sarah Everett, director of Global Impact and Research at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “There are dozens of potential vaccines currently in development by scientists across the globe. We applaud the worldwide effort to fund and support vaccines that look promising, because we can never know in advance which ones will be effective. We’re proud to support Dr. Hotez, Dr. Bottazzi and their team’s work to improve humanity’s odds of success against COVID-19 and future coronavirus mutations.”

“It’s an honor to work with Tito’s on this life-saving initiative, which we hope will ultimately lead to a vaccine for America,” Hotez said. “Our vision is that it would also advance as a low-cost global health vaccine, now that COVID-19 is racing through Latin American nations, such as Ecuador and Brazil, in addition to South Asia.”

“Our coronavirus vaccine is designed in Texas and tested in Texas with the utmost priority to ensure it is safe and effective,” Bottazzi said. “To now see that it will be supported by Texas-based Tito’s is a testament that our state will be recognized as being at the forefront of this pandemic, making a difference and reaching all populations locally and globally.”

The grant will allow researchers to engage in remaining vaccine manufacturing activities and support the partnership with PATH, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health, to advance the vaccine through the regulatory phase. This will allow them to accelerate the timeline for the vaccine to move into human trials. Once the initial safety trial is completed, the vaccine will be poised to continue its advanced clinical development, potentially leading to a vaccine suitable for global use and access.

The grant, though, is only one part of Tito’s response to COVID-19.

The company, under its philanthropic arm of Love, Tito’s, is funding the development and production of 500 ventilators for immediate use in Central Texas through a collaboration between The University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering, Dell Medical School, and the Texas Health Catalyst program.

It also has provided funding to The University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. This group, led by UT Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers and her team, is working on pandemic modeling to help map the spread of COVID-19 and improve preparedness for future pandemic threats, both locally and nationally.

Tito’s also has given $1 million to organizations focused on helping those in the service industry who have been hurt by the pandemic.

Tito’s was also one of the early distilleries who turns its equipment and know-how to manufacturing hand sanitizer as that product began disappearing from grocery store shelves.

Since late April, it has produced and packaged more than 24 million gallons of hand sanitizer and donated it to critical frontline organizations in Austin and other local communities throughout Texas, as well as to New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, California and Florida.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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