María Elena Bottazzi
Photo: Baylor College of Medicine
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Honduran Scientist and Co-Creator of New Covid Vaccine Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Honduran microbiologist María Elena Bottazzi co-created a low-cost COVID vaccine for global use and now she’s getting major recognition for her work. She and Dr. Peter Hotez led the team at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital to develop  the COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it worldwide. The vaccine, Corbevax, is a patent-free drug that recently received emergency authorization for use in India, Noticias Telemundo reported. Unlike the three main vaccines in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer, which provide the body instructions on how to produce the spike protein which helps the immune system fight the Covid-19 – Corbevax  directly delivers the spike protein to the body.

“It’s using proteins, which are made in a vegan way because we use a yeast fermentation system. And I have to say, we’ve gotten enormous reactions from the people,” Bottazzi told the local ABC station. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. Just the thought of thinking of us, and of our team, and the work that we are doing and have been doing for two decades. This is just unbelievable.”

Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher from Texas nominated Bottazzi,56, and Hotez for the Nobel Peace Prize and called to tell Bottazzi about it.  “The truth is that I was shocked, speechless. But we are very excited and grateful, because the simple fact that they have thought of us means that we are already winners,”  she told Noticias Telemundo.

Latinxs make up only 8 percent of all STEM workers according to PEW Research Center and only six Latin Americans have ever won a Nobel Peace Prize. Bottazzi’s work and nomination are both significant and together that much more worth celebrating.

She shared with Telemundo that she studied in Honduras and that it’s a lie that you need to be educated in a rich country in order to succeed. Bottazzi, who is also the Associate Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, hopes that her work inspires other Latinas in STEM and insists that mentors are crucial to opening doors.

“I think it is essential to get rid of that impostor syndrome mentality. One always has that idea that since you are a woman and you come from studying in Latin American countries or spaces, you cannot compete to seek opportunities outside the country, but you can,” she said. “My message is that it can be done, no matter what negative people say. Obviously it requires a lot of discipline and studies, first at school and then at university. I believe that having the opportunity to enter a university is essential in our countries.”