CORALVILLE, Iowa (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic medical research institute is re-upping its campaign to help fund the development of an ethical COVID vaccine.
John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JPIIMRI) is campaigning for donations again this year in order to address the urgency — both medical and moral — of the COVID crisis. According to a promotional video for the "Campaign for Cures," JPIIMRI is dedicated to creating a definitive platform for COVID-19 and emerging coronavirus.
Such a platform involves creating "a potent vaccine made from a human cell line which closely resembles what the vaccine is intended to treat" — and one that is not created from aborted fetal cells, the video clarifies.
Doctor Alan Moy, JPIIMRI founder, emphasized the Institute's commitment to an ethical vaccine. Doctor Moy told Church Militant Wednesday:
To make a long story short, we are using a proprietary immortalized human cell line that we created from a rare postnatal stem cell [with which] we have longstanding expertise. So, we do not use a cell line from abortion. Also, we promise that we will not use aborted fetal cells in any stage in design, manufacturing or testing.
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a long-time advocate of an ethical vaccine, told Church Militant Friday that there's "a critical need" for such research.
"We need to see that ethical vaccines are produced so that they are available to the people of God," the bishop urged. "This is what we need to do — work for, call for strongly — an ethical vaccine, not one built on the backs of murdered children."
Doctor Moy spoke to the financial cost of his work. "As one can imagine, vaccine research is time-consuming and expensive," he stressed.
"To produce small-scale vaccines for preclinical testing is quite feasible," he explained, "but the cost to create large scale manufacturing and workflow processes to enter a clinical trial is going to be challenging because the cost of such innovation is capital intensive and requires significant research and development in new technologies."
The Institute has established a two-phase business plan to achieve its objective: phase 1 seeks $325,000 for the initial six to nine months; phase 2 seeks $1.5–2 million for an additional year for animal testing.
Doctor Moy shared some of the advantages of the attenuated live vaccine his team is creating. Attenuation reduces the virulence of a pathogen but keeps it viable or live.
This vaccine "offers the best chance of longer immune protection" while "[t]here is no available data that the mRNA vaccine [Moderna and Pfizer] will provide this," he related.
These altered live vaccines, he explained, "also have better crossover protection against divergent viral strains. So it is possible that such a live vaccine could offer some protection against a novel coronavirus that emerges in the future," he continued.
The reason that Operation Warp Speed chose not to pursue these traditional live vaccines is "because historically they take longer to develop," he highlighted. "However, we are developing a different platform whereby it will be easier and quicker to develop an attenuated live vaccine."
The physician-researcher issued the following caveat, however:
Be aware that our COVID-19 vaccine research is at the preclinical stage and it has not even been tested in animals yet. Thus, I do not want to overhype or overpromise the final outcome. Our vaccine design is based on the best available collective data from a variety of biological disciplines and prior research published in the medical literature.
He also had a word regarding "the Catholic establishment."
"Unfortunately, the Catholic establishment has done very little to provide ethical alternative human cell lines over the past several decades," he noted. "For that reason, there are very few Catholic organizations, like JPIIMRI — all of whom are small, that have been working in this field for years and carrying the heavy lifting."
But he said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly unleashed concerns in many Catholic quarters."
Bishop Strickland is one prelate who has spoken out in favor of ethical vaccines in his "Catholic quarter" for some time. Last year the bishop issued a pastoral letter rousing Catholics to understand the moral danger of any coronavirus vaccine developed using stem cells from aborted babies and urged them to fight.
In the letter, he encouraged "all who believe in the sanctity of life in the womb" to reflect on his message, as "it is critical for the whole human family."
"I urge you to join me, NOW, in passionately but prayerfully speaking out against this practice," he implored.
The bishop informed Church Militant that there are many in the Church who support ethical vaccines.
"The Church is weak but many in the Church are strong," he pointed out.
The JPIIMRI web page makes clear that it "has the technical resources and expertise to offer a solution," but "it needs financial support from individuals and organizations."
The Institute further urges the public to "join this important campaign by making a meaningful, tax-deductible contribution," earmarking the donation for "Campaign for Cures."
More about the campaign and a place to donate toward the development of an ethical COVID-19 vaccine is available online.