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Mercer pharmacy professor researching microparticle COVID-19 vaccine

His goal is to use tiny "bead-like" particles to release a drug into your body.

MACON, Ga. — Right now, there is no cure for COVID-19, but a Mercer University professor's research could lead to a microparticle vaccine. His goal is to use tiny "bead-like" particles to release a drug into your body.

Dr. Martin D'Souza specializes in using nanotechnology to create drugs for infectious diseases and cancer. Recently, he began researching a new technique to help stop the spread COVID-19.  

D'Souza explained that when you put antigens, or molecules capable of triggering an immune response, into microparticles the human body yields a stronger immune response. 

“The advantage of putting a vaccine in a microparticle is that it looks even more foreign to the body,” said Dr. D’Souza in a Mercer University press release. “Therefore, the body creates an even stronger immune response.”

In his Mercer-Atlanta lab, D'Souza and 7 or 8 grad students are using a protein in the COVID-19 strain ("s protein") to try manufacturing a vaccine. Once it's created, they would put the medication into microparticles, and then load them into a microneedle to be administered.

D'Souza says, right now, there is nothing on the market like this.

Right now, there is no cure and no vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists around the globe are hoping for a breakthrough as the number of cases grows.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is running clinical trials to determine if plasma transfers from someone who's recovered from the virus will help others who are suffering.

"We feel that we will be able to successfully design a vaccine," says D'Souza. 

Within 4 to 5 months, Dr. D'Souza hopes to prepare some sort of COVID-19 vaccine formula, which could then be licensed and used in clinical trials.

Dr. D’Souza joined Mercer’s faculty in 1986 and currently serves as professor of pharmaceutical sciences, director of graduate programs, director of clinical laboratories, co-director of the Center of Drug Delivery and Research and Dick R. Gourley Chair of Pharmaceutics in the College of Pharmacy. He earned his B.S. in pharmacy from the University of Bombay and Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.

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