Meet the German-born Ghanaian developing coronavirus vaccine


Dr Marylyn Martina Addo is a German-born doctor of Ghanaian descent and is one of just a few women at the forefront of finding a vaccine for the deadly Coronavirus.

The 49-year-old professor is the head of the German Center for Infection Research’s Infectious Disease Unit at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and has been an expert in emerging infectious diseases for years.

In Hamburg, she is responsible for the isolation and treatment of the first corona cases. As part of a global team, Marylyn Addo is also driving the development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.

At the peak of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Dr Addo developed and tested vaccinations that protected people from the disease.

When the Coronavirus pandemic started to kill thousands people around the world, Dr Addo started developing a vector-based vaccination to protect people.

Inside the Coronavirus there is a spike protein that can penetrate human cells.

Dr Addo is looking to combine the spike protein with the genetic information of another viral vector that can penetrate cells and can produce spike proteins.

The immune system recognises that these proteins are foreign bodies, triggering an immune response and a spike in T cells that ultimately work against the coronavirus protein.

The proposed vaccine by Dr Addo makes use of the smallpox virus as a vehicle for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccination will be developed by IDT Biologika.

Dr Addo is the daughter of a Ghanaian father and a German mother, and she was born in the German city of Troisdorf.

Her father is a physician, something that inspired her to also study medicine at the University of Bonn.

Dr Addo earned her diploma at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, during which she researched Candida albicans transmission between HIV-positive people.

In 1999 she moved to Boston, where she specialised in infectious diseases at the Harvard Medical School.

In 2013 Dr Addo returned to Germany, where she was made a Professor and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) Head of Infectious Disease at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

She works there on infectious diseases and tropical medicine.

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