Tiny Florida Medical Research Firm Faces Giant Challenge — COVID-19 Vaccine (Flapol)

Tiny Florida Medical Research Firm Faces Giant Challenge — COVID-19 Vaccine

UF startup and UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech graduate company Oragenics, Inc., a Tampa-based medical research business with roots in Gainesville, found itself at a crossroads earlier this year right before the COVID-19 pandemic struck America.

The company’s previous project had been working on modifying genes related to bacteria in the hopes of stopping oral mucositis in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Test results did not show the desired results, though, and Oragenics CEO Alan Joslyn said his company could not justify spending another $30 million on clinical trials.

Their attorney informed them of another client of his, Noachis Terra Inc., which had a license from the National Institutes of Health to utilize a spike protein in the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine. Just like that, Oragenics went from a bacterial research company to an infectious disease company.

“We only have eight people working in the company and it’s a virtual company. We can make decisions in minutes with a phone call,” said Joslyn. “That flexibility and fungibility are very important in this day and age in that we don’t have to go to multiple committees and go through the process of having money put in or taken out of a budget. There’s only one budget.

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