Texas A&M Scientist Seeking Health Care Workers For COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Dr. Jeffrey Cirillo is leading a national team that hopes to repurpose an existing tuberculosis vaccine to fight the coronavirus. About 700 participants are needed in Texas for the clinical trial.
By Texas A&M University System Staff May 6, 2020

professor in white lab coat standing in lab
Dr. Jeffrey Cirillo is leading a team of scientists working to repurpose that repurposing an existing vaccine to fight COVID-19.

Texas A&M University System


A Texas A&M University scientist is asking hundreds of health care workers in Texas to participate in a large-scale clinical trial that could lead to a treatment to combat COVID-19.

In an interview that will appear on Thursday in several television markets across the state, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp talked with Dr. Jeffrey Cirilloa Regent’s Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, about the clinical trial.

Cirillo is leading a national team that seeks to use an existing tuberculous vaccine, BCG, to boost people’s immune systems against COVID-19. The treatment could be available to the public in as little as six months.

But to be successful, Cirillo needs about 700 participants in Texas for the Phase 4 trial. Initially, only medical professionals are eligible to take part because, as Cirillo says, “We need to find a way to protect health care workers.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center is leading a group of scientists and medical doctors from Harvard’s School of Public Health, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. MD Anderson is supplying the vaccine for use in the clinical trial.

The clinical trial also will include volunteers in Los Angeles and the Boston area.

Cirillo and Sharp also spoke about the how COVID-19 could threaten people’s cognitive functions and how a vaccine could prevent brain-related problems.

Sharp has allocated $2.5 million from the Chancellor’s Research Initiative to help Dr. Cirillo.

“Why are research universities here if not to better the lives of our fellow Texans and Americans?” Sharp said.

Also on the show, Chancellor Sharp sat down with Greg Hartman, chief operating officer and senior vice president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, to talk about other efforts to fight COVID-19.

They touched on rural health, telemedicine, fast-tracking nursing students into the field and the innovation at the university’s EnMed program, where students earn M.D.s and master’s degrees in engineering.

This is the fifth in a special series of television shows called “COVID-19: The Texas A&M System Responds.” Chancellor Sharp is interviewing scientists, researchers and other leading experts who are helping Texas and the nation fight the pandemic in a variety of ways.

The interview will air 7 p.m. Thursday on KAMU-TV in College Station and on other Texas public television affiliates (check local listings in Dallas, Austin, Waco and Amarillo). It is also available on the System’s YouTube channel.

Media contact: Laylan Copelin, Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications, 512-289-2782,

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