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Cuomo applauds SUNY Upstate Medical's Dr. Stephen Thomas, appointed lead principal investigator for worldwide Pfizer vaccine trial

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Wed, Nov 11th 2020 08:40 am

SUNY Upstate Medical serves as 1 of the global phase 3 vaccine trial locations

Second major COVID-19-related research announcement from upstate this fall 

Thomas will support Pfizer/BioNTech as they prepare vaccine trial data for submission to regulatory agencies later this month

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced SUNY Upstate Medical's Dr. Stephen Thomas was appointed the lead principal investigator for the worldwide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, which is showing a more than 90% efficacy in preventing COVID-19. The SUNY medical school serves as one of the global phase three vaccine trial locations.

"New York's medical experts are second to none and, from the very beginning of this pandemic, we have relied on their vast knowledge and expertise to inform our response. I'm glad Pfizer is doing the same," Cuomo said. "It's great news that Pfizer/BioNTech is seeing positive results from its vaccine trial, and I'm proud one of New York's foremost infectious disease experts has been selected to lead its worldwide vaccine trial. On behalf of the family of New York, I would like to thank Dr. Thomas for his work fighting this invisible enemy."

As the lead principal investigator, Thomas, SUNY Upstate's chief of infectious disease, will support Pfizer and BioNTech as they prepare vaccine trial data for submission to regulatory agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to happen later this month.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said, "This is the second major COVID-19-related research news coming out of Upstate Medical following the FDA-approved pooled surveillance testing for the virus, and it serves as a reminder of the expertise within SUNY to help solve for major issues impacting our society. Each of us have a role to play in fighting off this pandemic, from wearing masks and staying socially distanced – as the vast majority of our students do – to equipping our campuses based on data and science to protect students, faculty and staff; to PPE production; and research capabilities. Dr. Thomas, Dr. Frank Middleton, among so many others at SUNY, are at the forefront of medical innovation, and they serve as inspiration to our students and their peers."

SUNY Upstate Medical President Dr. Mantosh Dewan said, "Dr. Stephen Thomas's international leadership role as lead principal investigator on the Pfizer/BioNTech global phase three clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate is a source of pride for all of us. He and the work of his colleagues here at (SUNY) Upstate and across the globe on this vaccine trial are having a dramatic impact on how we will prevail over this pandemic."

Thomas said, "The (SUNY) Upstate team has worked incredibly hard to support Pfizer and their partners as we all try to find ways to stop this pandemic. This hard work combined with the outpouring of support from our CNY community has put in a position to be great contributors to the COVID vaccine develop effort."

As one of the global phase three vaccine trial sites, SUNY Upstate Medical has enrolled more than 300 adult volunteers in the trial. The study of the vaccine candidate in younger volunteers will begin soon, with Upstate Medical being selected again as one of a few sites.

This announcement is the second for SUNY Upstate Medical this fall about COVID-19-related research. The college, under the leadership of Dr. Frank Middleton, and Quadrant Biosciences received New York State Department of Health and FDA approval for their pooled surveillance testing and individual saliva swab test. Both the individual test and the pooled test can be done using saliva swabs rather than by swabs inserted in a person's nose.

Individuals administer the tests themselves by swabbing their mouths and providing the saliva samples, which are sent to Upstate Medical. Their samples are combined into one and tested for the COVID-19 virus. A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean each individual saliva sample within the pool would need to be tested again individually to pinpoint exact positive cases. The rapid retesting does not require people in the positive pool to return to submit an entirely new sample. This greatly accelerates the process and expands testing capacity.

Upstate Medical's saliva test allows SUNY to process up to 200,000 COVID tests per week. To date, SUNY has conducted 378,488 COVIV-19 tests on campuses with a positive rate of 0.47%.

To learn more about SUNY, visit www.suny.edu.

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