SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – The leader of a local research establishment which played a role in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is being honored by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio. The organization has selected Texas Biomedical Research Institute President and CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger as the 2021 International Citizen of the Year.
“Texas Biomed is on the front end of the discovery pipeline of infectious disease, said Peggy Pace, World Affairs Council Board Chair. “Their part in fighting COVID-19 underscores the significance to the work they have been doing locally for the past 80 years. Dr. Schlesinger’s experience combined with the nonprofit’s historical leadership continues to advance human health and save lives around the world.”
As a physician and a scientist, Schlesinger has been involved in work to eradicate infectious diseases for more than 30 years. He’s proud of the work Texas Biomedical Research Institute on West Military Dr. near Loop 410 is doing to fight COVID-19.
“We created animal models that allowed for pre-clinical testing, for example, on the Pfizer vaccine, on the Regeneron monoclonal antibody cocktail, and a vaccine you’ll be hearing about, the Novavax vaccine,” said Schlesinger.
He told KTSA News their scientists are busy trying to figure out the impact of the viral variants that are becoming more common and they’re looking at the next stage of vaccines.
“Places like Texas Biomed are further evaluating how these variants behave in our animal models,” said Schlesinger. “Animal research is a huge part of the development of any new therapy or vaccine on the market.”
The local studies have used baboons, macaques and marmosets.
“We have a staff of over 150 individuals focused on the humane treatment, love and care of these animals and they’re treated with the utmost respect on our campus,” he said.
Until more people are vaccinated and as the UK and South African COVID-19 variants become more prevalent, Schlesinger is encouraging the use of face masks.
“I believe this is absolutely the critical time to hunker down, wear masks and physically distance to ensure that we really nip this virus in the bud, and we do what everybody wants, which is to more effectively get back to some type of normal condition. We need to get past this pandemic,” Schlesinger said.
He’ll be honored by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio as International Citizen of the year in a virtual celebration at 7 pm Wednesday, March 24. Dr. Barry Bloom, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor of Public health and former Dean of Faculty of Public Health will lead the event in a fireside chat as keynote speaker.