Shmuel Yitzhaki appointed Director General of the Institute for Biological Research

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Dr Shmuel Yitzhaki has been appointed director general of the Israel Biological Research Institute, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Sunday. The nomination will soon be submitted to the government for approval, he said.

Yitzhaki has served as the interim managing director since the previous managing director, Professor Shmuel Shapira, stepped down in March. He has worked at the IIBR for 23 years and has helped lead efforts to develop Israel’s coronavirus vaccine, BriLife.

After Shapira resigned, he said the vaccine was significantly delayed due to bureaucracy. Since then, the vaccine has shown “promising results,” according to a person familiar with the trials.

In July, the IIBR signed an agreement with Nasdaq-traded US-based NRx Pharmaceuticals to speed up the vaccine. Israel completes its Phase II trial, with Phase IIb trials underway in the Caucasus country of Georgia.

The IBR vaccine candidate arrived in Hadassah and was placed in the freezer (credit: courtesy)

A phase III trial is expected to begin in the coming months.

In an interview with Yediot Aharonot this weekend, Shapira spoke about a new book he has published that reviews the challenges he has faced in developing BriLife.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been shown to be less effective than initially believed, he said, adding that the IIBR vaccine would be better.

BriLife is different from the Pfizer and Moderna messenger RNA vaccines. It is a vector-based vaccine that takes the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and genetically modifies it to express the spike protein of the novel coronavirus on its envelope.

Once injected, it does not cause illness on its own. VSV does not infect humans. Instead, the body recognizes the spike protein that is expressed on the envelope and begins to develop an immunological response.

Months before Shapira resigned, he told MPs the country’s vaccine could have been further advanced without the “over-regulation” faced by the IIBR.

“We should have been in phase III,” Shapira said. “I think we have come a long and difficult road. When a [representative of a] prestigious regulatory institute saw what we went through, it said that what we went through was “too complex a path”.

“I will not expand beyond that,” he said. “Those who understand it will understand. “


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