A promotional glimpse into the Pfizer laboratories. Passionate researchers are working on world-saving vaccines. What Jordon Trishtan Walker told is explained here extensively and proudly, in an article of August 2021. If this is not "bombshell material" is, I don't understand where the crowds around the Project Veritas video with Walker come from. And why he himself completely panics when he sees that his statements have been recorded (video added at the bottom of this post).
I have given the most striking fragments a purple background. In addition, various rigid statements are made about the test results and the effectiveness against variants. The article is from August 2021, when spikes and the cultivation of virus variants were still in a different light.
For those who haven't seen the video, Pfizer exec Jordon Walker brags in the pub about Pfizer's groundbreaking work. Confronted with the video, he would later panic ("That's what dating men do: they lie!!!"), call the police, try to destroy the iPad... Why?
Pfizer sought publicity two years earlier with what Walker is now bragging about. Same story. Jordon Walker has since been purged of the internet. Are they only now beginning to realize how dangerous, immoral and illegitimate their core business is?
Translated from: Pfizer 'variant hunters' race to stay ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic – STAT (statnews.com)
Photography: DESIREE RIOS BEFORE STAT (original photos not shown due to possible image rights claims. You don't really miss much, photos of employees in front of the business premises and some photos of the lab, not top quality.)
In Pfizer's labs, "variant hunters" are racing to stay ahead of the next twist of the pandemic.
ThroughOlivia Goldhill, 30 August, 2021
PEARL RIVER, N.Y. – Delta swept through India, and as the death toll rose, so did anxiety in Pfizer's lab north of New York City. The Covid-19 variant threatened to nullify their work over the past year by rendering their much-vaunted vaccine ineffective.
Hundreds of millions of doses have been injected worldwide, but at the Pearl River research center, the pace has not slowed. A team of "variant hunters," as they call themselves, are racing to detect changes in the rapidly mutating SARS-CoV-2. A "virus grower" creates the latest variants so that researchers can test how they are doing against the vaccine. And a colleague known as the "graphic unicorn" turns the data into understandable results overnight.
The scientist leading all this work, Phil Dormitzer, was one of the first to open the email with the results of the tests on how well Pfizer's vaccine worked against Delta. For a moment he thought that the vaccine indeed offered less protection against this wild variant. Then he looked again.
"I realized: no, the one that spreads is not the one with reduced neutralization!" he said. His team had tested two virus strains that appeared in India around the same time, and only one of them showed reduced efficacy. Delta, which quickly became dominant, was efficiently wiped out by the vaccine.
Pfizer's team breathed a sigh that day in June. Kena Swanson, senior director of viral vaccines, wiped her forehead with relief. "So far, everything actually looks really good," she said.
Delta still has ways to cause more groundbreaking infections in vaccinated people: It spreads more efficiently, has a shorter incubation period and produces a higher viral load in the infected. But the test results showed that the vaccine itself works well.
STAT got a rare peek at Pfizer's Pearl River research center, which has remained a place of hectic activity for its 900 employees during the pandemic. The long, cramped red brick buildings have served as a laboratory for more than a century and played a role in previous international emergencies, with the production of penicillin and typhoid vaccines in World War II and the main oral polio vaccine in the sixties. The location is now adapting to the current crisis, as the loading docks are flooded with unprecedented numbers of patient specimens. Within the white, fluorescent-lit corridors, Pfizer built a high-security laboratory with sufficient safety protocols and airlocks to make copies of the variants and enclose SARS-2.
Tracking the virus so closely has yielded some surprises, including questioning old assumptions about vaccines: Recipients have protection before the vaccines have elicited a significant antibody response, for example, a finding that prompts researchers to come up with new methods to evaluate future vaccine candidates.
The work is exhausting, but the researchers can't afford a break. "My goal is to go to bed before the sun rises," says Kristin Tompkins, associate director of vaccine research and development, and the first person at Pfizer to receive data on how each new variant responds to the vaccine.
On the day STAT visited her this month, a few waves of her red hair were out of place, her impeccable appearance frayed a bit. "That doesn't happen often."
Pfizer's discoveries are inextricably linked to the global political response to the pandemic. The day before STAT's visit to the lab, the Biden administration declared that all Americans should receive boosters, a call that followed the company's announcement that a third dose would likely be needed six months to a year after the first.
Pfizer's vaccine diminishes in protective action over time, but remains more than 90% effective against serious illness six months later. Roopchand's colleagues were divided on the question of whether it makes sense to use boosters now. According to Swanson and Dormitzer, the extra doses will be given either early or late, and it is better to take the first. "Dormitzer, Pfizer's scientific head for viral vaccines.
Booster shots don't prevent much-needed broader vaccinations, he added: "I don't think every dose given in the U.S. takes a dose away from anyone else in the world. We are continuously producing vaccines around the world in large numbers."
Just as Pfizer's work determines policy, so the government's choices determine their research. Swanson leads the team of "variant hunters," and her work won't diminish until the vast majority of the world is vaccinated. "That's the real goal. If you can do that, the chances of this kind of thing are much smaller," she says.
Despite the intensity of her work, she is calm. There are endless new variants, but Swanson picks the most worrying one to pay particular attention to: the variants that are spreading internationally, becoming increasingly dominant and associated with higher mortality rates. The countries that buy the vaccines also influence the choice of variants to be studied. "This is also a product, and so it also responds to customers," Dormitzer said. "And the most important customers are governments – what do they want to see?"
It takes months for the real impact of the variants to become clear, but Pfizer gets an early picture of the threat by conducting laboratory tests on each variant.
Isolating and transporting each specific variant from all over the world is too much of a hassle. Instead, Pfizer scientists grow the variants themselves, using information from a database called GISAID, which contains virus sequence data uploaded by scientists and doctors worldwide. The genetic sequence acts as a manual.
Swanson's team downloads the sequences attributed to a particular variant and runs an algorithm to identify the most important mutations.
They then synthesize the new spike protein, which uses SARS-CoV-2 to invade human cells.
Most other research centers insert the spike protein into another, non-pathogenic virus, creating a so-called pseudovirus, which requires a lower level of safety in the lab, but is also less accurate. And so Pfizer's scientists are using a different method: The company has samples of the virus from the first Covid-19 case in the U.S., in January 2020. To create a new variant, the scientists insert the new spike protein into the old SARS-2 virus.
"Our system is very different from that of many other laboratories, and I think we're the only ones in the world that do it this way," said Pei-Yong Shi, a molecular biology professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch who works closely with Pfizer to study the variants.
Before the pandemic, Pfizer's Pearl River research center didn't have a biosafety level 3 lab needed to grow Covid-19 — with an airlock and scientists dressed in white hooded suits, gloves, impenetrable jackets and with an air-purifying respirator. (Such a lab was not opened until March 2021.) And so the spike protein is packaged in ice and flown to Texas, where Shi inserts it into the existing SARS-2 virus to create the new variant.
This virus is mixed with serum from the blood of vaccinated people, which contains antibodies that their immune system has produced in response to the vaccine. Different dilutions of the serum are used in a neutralization test to show what amount of serum is needed to inactivate the virus. The more serum needed, the less effective the vaccine is against that particular strain.
The test only points to the antibody response, not to other aspects of the immune system that also protect against viruses, such as the T cell response. "We definitely take it with a grain of salt," Dormitzer said. But while they're far from perfect, the results are still a useful indicator.
There is no perfect recipe for growing a virus. It requires heat and glucose, said Roopchand, who oversees the process at Pearl River. It also requires a certain atmosphere.
"We treat viruses with a lot of respect. No fear – respect!" he said with an elated smile. "If you fear them, they probably won't grow." Viruses are part of nature, he added. They have every right to be here.
Roopchand has many good vibrations. He bounces through his lab, gesturing quickly, with the energy of a child high on sugar rather than a scientist who has worked non-stop throughout the pandemic.
"We treat viruses with a lot of respect. No fear – respect! If you fear them, they probably won't grow."VIDIA ROOPCHAND, PFIZER CHIEF SCIENTIST FOR VIRAL VACCINES
Last Christmas, he would take his first break since March 2020. The day before his vacation, Dormitzer said they needed to assess new threats. Variants from the UK, Brazil and South Africa spread rapidly, derailing gatherings and increasing fears.
Roopchand, who calls himself a "vaccine grower," canceled his plans and began inserting spike proteins of the variants into non-pathogenic viruses. It felt like his responsibility, said Roopchand, who was born in Guyana. "I'm from the third world and I've seen what infectious diseases can do," he said.
And so he was in the lab on Christmas Day to make sure the cells were dividing well. "You have to have happy cells," he said. "You talk to it."
The conversation yielded something. Roopchand developed all three strains and gave them to his colleagues for testing. Swanson's team would get the results back on Roopchand's one day off, the Sunday between Christmas and New Year.' He couldn't relax.
Roopchand tried to exercise to calm down, but that didn't help. As soon as he got home, his wife wanted to know why he didn't shine after training. "She knows me well, we've been married for 20 years. One thing about science is that you carry it with you, and your body language betrays you."
Finally, late in the afternoon, he received the results by email. It ended up being a good Christmas, because he knew their vaccine worked.
Serum from the blood of vaccinated participants is easier to obtain than the latest SARS-2 variants. Every day, one hundred boxes of 3500 blood and nose samples arrive in Pearl River from locations where clinical trials are being conducted to test the long-term efficacy of the vaccine and booster shots, and of vaccination tests in children and pregnant people.
Prior to the pandemic, scientists unpacked boxes in a lab with a giant robot freezer the size of 20 standard freezers. Once the Covid-19 trials were running, they didn't have enough space and capacity to manage so many deliveries.
"Having our scientists lift and dump heavy boxes of dry ice a hundred times a day was not the most efficient way to work," says monster management specialist Jacob Stass. "I get a bad back from getting up from my chair too quickly."
Last summer, they changed their strategy by having a team that normally moves heavy equipment unpack the boxes in the receiving dock. On the Tuesday of a STAT reporter's visit, there were dozens of large cardboard boxes at the door late in the morning, each with dry ice and a smaller box with specimens in it. Once opened, each specimen was placed on a table with dry ice, where it was checked and signed before being transferred to the main freezer.
Some of these specimens are sent to Texas, where Shi tests them with his newly bred varieties. Due to travel problems during the pandemic, Pfizer deployed its company planes to transport the samples as quickly as possible.
"The logistics of getting materials back and forth proved very difficult," said Steve Bjornson, vice president and chief operating officer of vaccine research and development. The fleet was usually used to fly executives to priority meetings, but as more cases take place on Zoom, they were increasingly available and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla suggested using the planes to fly organic products instead.
Once the spike is generated, the virus is cultured, and the neutralization tests are developed, the final stage is analyzing the results. Tompkins, the "graphic unicorn," has this task. "I get raw data late at night and then, magically in the morning, they have wonderful graphs to interpret," she said. Shi often sends her data late in the evening at 22:00 or sometimes even at 1:00.
The updates are exhausting but stimulating, Tompkins said. "Every time I get that clinical data, it's a thrill to see how great our vaccine is," she said. "It's great."
The variants have so far been neutralized by the vaccine, but Pfizer is working on an updated vaccine in preparation for the day when one might be needed. It chose Beta, the variant with the largest reduction in virus neutralization in the test, as a prototype.
"We didn't believe we would need a vaccine against the Beta variant. We explicitly did it as a test case to pave the way in case we do need it," Dormitzer said. Studying the Beta vaccine has taken months, but Pfizer's goal is to arrive at a new vaccine ready to roll out within 100 days of synthesis.
Achieving this goal largely depends on the oversight of regulations and the amount of testing required by the Food and Drug Administration; Pfizer hopes that the basis of the evidence for existing vaccines can speed up new vaccines. For example, new flu vaccines are small adjustments from previous doses and do not need to be tested on humans before they are used for the first time. "It's going to take time to get that kind of confidence [for Covid vaccines]," Dormitzer said.
There is also no definitive test that shows when a new vaccine is needed. Beta's neutralization response was about a third lower than for the original variant — which sounds significant, but is a relatively small difference. "On the scale of flu viruses, you only pay attention when the neutralization becomes four times smaller," Dormitzer says. And the difference didn't correspond to a change in real life: The original vaccine held up well against Beta in efficacy studies.
Researchers are still trying to figure out which neutralizing data is a sign of concern. There does not appear to be a linear relationship between the number of antibodies and the degree of protection. Instead, there is probably a threshold below which we are vulnerable to serious illness. "There certainly seems to be a trend, but whether there's an absolute threshold, we don't know yet," Swanson said.
Studying Covid-19 has only highlighted how little we know. "Often, when you work in this area, you look at the data from animals and you say, this thing has a weak antibody response, let's not go ahead with it," Roopchand said. Data from the Covid vaccine's Phase 3 effectiveness study undermines that approach: Vaccinated participants have protection against the virus on day 12, at a time when there is hardly any antibody response. "That was the biggest surprise," Roopchand said.
He hopes to dissect the data further, to try to find other indicators of effective defenses. T cells, which are created by the immune system to destroy cells infected with the virus, and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), a specific immune response in which a cell is covered with antibodies and then destroyed by white blood cells, have been largely neglected in immunological research, Roopchand said. Maybe you don't need an overwhelming antibody response, and it's more important to measure cellular immunity. "The data on 12 days of protection tells us there's more to it," he said. "This is a great time to learn."
The work is incessant. Dormitzer said he didn't receive any emails earlier this month on an evening from half past ten to eleven o'clock. "I actually looked up the helpdesk, I wanted to see if there was something wrong with my computer. Normally my inbox would be full at that time."
He is known as a nocturnal figure at Pfizer, but seems calm and rested, apparently with no need for sleep. In times of pressure, such as when neutralization data for Beta dropped and Pfizer decided they needed to be made public as soon as possible, Shi worked until late in the evening, after which Dormitzer took over from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The constant intensity is both rewarding and exhausting, especially as large parts of the public reject Pfizer's life-saving vaccine. Tompkins, the graphic unicorn, is gentle, but gently slaps the table of frustration as she talks about how the pandemic might end. "We're going to keep going until everyone is vaccinated," she says.
There will be more adjustments. The team is currently awaiting the results for how the vaccine fares against B.1.621, a variant from Colombia that does not yet have a Greek name.
In the worst case, a variant develops that completely escapes the protection of the vaccine. Pfizer's scientists are divided on whether that could happen. "I don't think we'll be back to square one," Dormitzer said. His colleague Roopchand thinks he is too optimistic. A "new square" is still possible, he said.
The pandemic feels endless, but from a research perspective, Covid-19 is still young. "It's still early to understand how the virus develops and what the next step could be," Swanson said. New variants are inevitable, only their impact is impossible to predict.
About the Author
Olivia Goldhill is an investigative journalist at STAT, holding companies and government agencies accountable in their response to Covid-19.
Pfizer's Jordon Tristan Walker panics blindly when he realizes that what he just said has been captured on video. It's not much different from what was proudly promoted by Pfizer two years ago.
Walker: "I just made something up!" "I'm not proposing anything!" "I have nothing to say at Pfizer!"
And what did Jordon Tristan Walker say again?
This link was already in a previous post, but then everything is listed here. Pretty much everything he claps out of school about is in the advertorial from two years ago.
The advertising car with the video for Pfizer's (main) office in New York
Let's get in there.
Always thought Sherri Tenpenny was a diatribesman anti-vaccine activist. (And not just against Covid vaccines like those English jabs like John Campbell, Angus Dalgleish and Aseem Mal hotra, but really against ALL vaccinations). But gradually I'm going to develop some sympathy for her. Tenpenny was, unsurprisingly, removed from Twitter, You Tube and other social media. But lately, videos of her have been popping up again. That's great!