A USC SARS-COV-2 vaccine project and animal paratuberculosis mycobacteria research, winners of the II International Zendal Awards

  • The project carried out by the Ciqus group on the Sars-COV-2 vaccine has been the awarded in the human health category, while the research on paratuberculosis of the Neiker group has been the awarded in the animal health section
  • The Special Mention Award has been assigned to the scientist Maria A. Blasco, director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) for her lifelong career in the defense of science and promotion of women scientists

Porriño, 2 of December 2020. The development of a vaccine candidate against SARS-COV-2 and a promising study on paratuberculosis in animals, have been the prizewinning projects selected by the judging panel of the II Zendal Awards in the category of human and animal healthcare respectively.

Innovation and social transformation, the feasibility and applicability of the findings; the contribution of these breakthroughs to the improvement and welfare of society and the scientific relevance of the research, have been the main criteria applied by the scientific panel to decide the winners. This edition has undoubtedly been marked by the COVID crisis that led to the Award Winning Ceremony being suspended until a suitable date when people can attend in the forthcoming months.

The winners, granted with 15,000 euros in each of the two – categories, the research group Ciqus, in human health, and Neiker, in animal health, will have to reinvest the economic endowment in research projects, since the objective of these awards is to enhance biotechnological research.

Two breakthroughs in vaccines

The winning project in animal healthcare, the development by the NEIKER Micobacteriae Group, presents a strongly innovative character as it allows a better diagnosis and control of animal diseases, while changing the paradigm of the inefficiency of inactivated (killed) mycobacteria vaccines demonstrating their safety and efficacy. This opens up the possibility to reassess vaccination from the new perspective of trained immunity to reduce the mortality rate in the early years of life and in general to strengthen the immune system. Currently, it is the only project in which a vaccine has been tested against paratuberculosis in bovine in field conditions and over a sustained period of time. This project has epidemiologically confirmed the prediction of the theory of trained innate immunity in non-human domestic species.

In the human health category, the Ciqus project aims to obtain a candidate vaccine against SARS-COV-2 that may reach the clinical trial phase.

Recognition of a career of excellence

The special prize for an outstanding professional career has been assigned to the molecular biologist Maria A. Blasco, director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) and head of the Telomeres and Telomerase group at that center.

A judging panel made up of a scientific committee

To choose the prizewinners, a group of experts were gathered under the direction of Juan José Badiola Díez, professor of Animal Healthcare and Director of the Centre of Encephalopathies and Emerging Communicable Diseases of the University of Zaragoza; María Jesús Lamas, Director of the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Healthcare Products; María Jaureguízar Redondo, Managing Director of the Spanish Technological Platform Foundation Vet+i of Animal Healthcare; Carlos Martín Montañés, Professor of Microbiology, Preventative Medicine and Public Health;  Miguel Ángel Llamas doctor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and CEO of the Empireo company dedicated to molecular diagnosis; Jelle Thole, founder of the leadingscientific team TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), a non-profit foundation with headquarters in The Netherlands that supports development of new vaccines against tuberculosis. Two representatives from Zendal Group also made up the judging panel, one as the secretary and the other as the president.