Kansas City research clinic playing a big role in search for COVID-19 vaccine

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Scientists are racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19, and Kansas City is playing an integral part.

There are only two places in the United States doing human COVID-19 trials, and one of them is right here in the metro.

It’s a process that could save the lives of people around the globe.

Brandon Kenig proudly showed FOX4 marks on his arm that only 40 people in the U.S. have.

Kenig said he has always had a heart for service, so when the opportunity to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial came up, he jumped on it.

After a battery of tests and long conversations, Kenig was chosen as a guinea pig.

“That’s exactly what I am, yes,” Kenig said with a chuckle. “Even though initially I was very excited, I started, you know, having some anxiety and doubts just knowing that there is inherent risk involved. This is something that hasn’t been injected in anybody before, and the phase 1 trial is to judge safety.”

Dr. John Ervin, principal investigator at the Alliance for Multispecialty Research in Kansas City, has been involved in 100 vaccine trials.

He’s also overseeing the Inovio Pharmaceuticals trial that Kenig is participating in. Ervin called it the most important trial he has ever done.

“What this does is it teaches our immune system to recognize the fingerprints of the virus,” Ervin said.

Ervin explained that the DNA sequence on COVID-19 spikes have been reproduced synthetically. When injected into the body, the immune system sees it as a foreign invader and makes antibodies to kill it. Then, when active COVID-19 virus gets in, the immune system has a weapon to destroy it.

So far, the trials are showing very promising results.

“We’ve got to get out of this mess and really the way to do it is to get effective vaccines and just accelerate it,” Ervin said. “As long as it safe, let’s accelerate them and get them out there as quickly as we can because we are all tired of this.”

Kenig got his last of two vaccine shots Monday and still has lab work ahead of him to make sure all is well. But he said he has had no side effects at all and feels great.

“It was probably the best and one thing that I could do myself, just as one person out of so many people, trying to find a way out of this,” Kenig said.

If all goes well, scientists think the vaccine might be able to begin production by the end of the year.

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