April 11, 2021

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Head of Israel Biological Institute Retires Amidst Postponed Vaccine Trials

2 min read

Professor Shmuel Shapira, the head of the Israel Institute of Biological Research, made a shocking announcement on Tuesday. He stated that he will be resigning from his position in the month of May, as it was later confirmed by the Defense Ministry. 

The Ministry released a statement saying that the director will be stepping down from the post after holding it for eight years. It also added that the end of the term had been decided in advance.

As of now, the IIBR and Shapira are in the middle of developing the country’s own coronavirus vaccine. This is a project which was continually being delayed. The hiccups in the Phase II were initially caused by bureaucracy and then due to the fact that people refused to volunteer for the trials. 

It has been speculated that Shapira, aged 66, could have continued as the head of the Israel Institute of Biological Research for another year. Consequently, he would have resigned at the age designated for retirement. Moreover, he would have had the opportunity to extend his time as the director. 

The Ministry went on to add that the successor for Shapira had not yet been decided. 

The work on the coronavirus vaccine initially began in the last days of February by the IIBR, at the suggestion of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel. At the last cabinet meeting attended by Shapira, the leader announced that the country will have its own vaccine soon. 

Up until now, Israel has spent almost NIS 175 million trying to create the vaccine candidate developed by the IIBR by the name Brilife. 

The IIBR works in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and under the Office of the Prime Minister. The relevant authorities initially aimed to have the country’s own vaccine by the beginning of the summer season. 

However, there were various obstacles that caused a delay in the clinical trials of Brilife. Just last November, the IIBR was able to successfully complete the first phase of the vaccine. It had worked in cohesion with the Hadassah-University Medical Center, as well as Sheba Medical Center. At the time, the Israeli vaccine had shown only a handful of side effects with nothing too severe. 

Shapira had spoken at the Knesset towards the end of November. He had expressed his displeasure at the ‘over-regulation on the part of the government, without which the IIBR would have been in more advanced stages of developing the Israeli-made vaccine. 

According to the director, Phase III would have been in process right now. He revealed how a regulatory institute had also been shocked at the complexity of the regulations encountered by Brilife. He had further complained that the IIBR had been deprived of the support that had been given to other companies developing the vaccine. 

Shapira had addressed the Knesset and said that the institute would have been happy at receiving the same sympathy and support that is given to large companies. 

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