US-based Filipino priest, scientist and professor, Fr. Nicanor Robles Austriaco, is reportedly developing a Covid19 vaccine for poor.
Project “Pagasa” (“hope”), as he calls it, aims to develop a yeast vaccine delivery system for the virus, despite the months-long wait to find out if it is effective.
“I’m a yeast molecular biologist,” Austriaco explained. “I’m trying to develop a yeast vaccine delivery system for Covid19 that would be cheaper and easier to implement than the standard vaccines currently available. It’s a crazy idea but there’s a lot of scientific research suggesting that such a yeast vaccine delivery system could work.”
He revealed that his laboratory began the project after “learning about the challenges the Filipino people would have in acquiring and deploying vaccines developed in the first world.” A small grant from Providence College is funding preclinical trial stages of this undertaking.
Currently, they are focused on developing the system and testing it on mice. Should this prove successful, the next steps will still need to be planned out.
“I am currently without sponsors or donors, and I’m not looking for them at this time. God has provided us with enough funds to begin the work. I know He will provide what we will need later if this works.”
“The poor are beloved of the Lord. We should make Covid19 vaccines available to them at no cost. This is both the ethical thing to do, because we should provide for those in need, and the scientific thing to do, because the poor often live in densely populated areas that tend to harbor the virus. If we want to eradicate the virus, then we have to vaccinate everyone, especially those most vulnerable to getting sick,” he added.
Austriaco earned a degree in Bachelor of Science Engineering, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. Seven years later, he earned a PhD in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where was also a pre-doctoral fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory.
The following year in 1997, while a fellow at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research at the University College London, he joined the Order of Friars Preachers.
Austriaco earned his Master of Divinity degree and Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
In 2015, he finished his Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the University of Fribourg and five years later, an MBA from Providence College.
Today, he is a professor of Biology and Theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island as well as a research fellow at Center for Theology, Religious Studies and Ethics, at University of Sto. Tomas.