Researchers working to develop COVID-19 vaccine at Colorado State University

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet toured facility on Friday
michael bennet csu coronavirus tour research
Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 14:55:57-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- It's a race against time at Colorado State University, which has live strains of COVID-19 and is now working to develop a vaccine.

Researchers will first test any vaccine on animals before testing it on humans.

"These guys are on the cutting edge of so much scientific research," said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who visited the lab on Friday, just one day after the first coronavirus cases were confirmed in Colorado.

"Once again, when it comes to this kind of research, CSU is the center of the universe,” Bennet said. “They've got the people, they've got the facilities and they have the practice and history of dealing with viruses like this."

If and when a vaccine is developed, it will likely come out of one of the nation's premier research facilities — quite possibly CSU.

"Yes, it could,” said Dr. Alan Rudolph, vice president for bio-science research at Colorado State University. "Part of the reason we can do this work is we have very specialized safety and security facilities around doing this work."

CSU’s Research Innovation Center was created in 2004 after the anthrax scare.

The importance of the work happening here is underscored by the announcement last week that the coronavirus has arrived in Colorado, with nine presumptive positive cases in the state as of Monday afternoon.

"We've actually worked inside of coronaviruses before, in SARS and MERS," Rudolph said.

“I’m sure we're going to [develop a vaccine] as quickly as we can,” Bennet said. “But people also need to be realistic."

Bennet delivered a message about the virus showing up at Colorado ski resorts just in time for spring break as thousands plan to visit the state.

"My message to them is please, come to Colorado and ski here and enjoy what we have to offer," Bennet said. “We need to take this very seriously, but we shouldn't overreact at the same time.”

"We're in a race," Rudolph said. “But we also work with researchers in other labs. There’s a lot of collaboration.”