Even before the pandemic, Mei Mei Hu had a mission to democratize health.
Prior to 2020, her company Vaxxinity, formerly Covaxx, was focused on developing a vaccine for Alzheimer’s but quickly reallocated some of its resources to addressing the pressing issue of COVID-19 as the virus spread around the world.
The company focused on distributing vaccines to underserved communities and to countries in need in the developing world.
“The COVID vaccines landscape has been so tremendous and miraculous, just in the timing of the collaborative environment, and yet, there’s still a lot of inequality,” said Hu, who serves as the company’s chief executive officer.
To fully tackle the pandemic, Hu said everyone needs access to a vaccine, including in the U.S. Hu said the lack of choice in vaccines in the country is contributing to a lower vaccination rate. Hu said offering people more choice in COVID vaccine technologies and platforms is important.
“In general, there’s an anti-vax population but it’s actually very small in the U.S., but for COVID vaccines we have about 40% of those that are not fully vaccinated,” she said.
Vaxxinity filed to be listed on the Nasdaq last week in a $100 million confidential public listing, but Vaxxinity’s road has been a little bumpy in 2021.
In June the company signed a deal to provide 1 million doses of its UB-612 COVID-19 vaccine to Paraguay if it were to be approved for emergency authorization by Taiwan’s FDA.
The company’s application was rejected, but Hu said the company has reevaluated and has a different plan for moving forward and is still well positioned as COVID becomes an endemic problem, she said.
The company has submitted new data with the Taiwan FDA and just got approval to run a study in the U.S.
“You don’t give up in drug development. As in life, you persevere,” Hu said.
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