HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two Houston scientists are among the nominees for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher nominated Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Dr. Peter Hotez at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital for their efforts to develop and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine worldwide.
For decades, their team of researchers has worked to help stop the spread of infectious diseases. That work took on a new meaning these last two years as they engineered a low-cost COVID vaccine for global use.
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"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," said Bottazzi. "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."
"We're still in the middle of trying to accelerate our vaccine globally, now that it's been released for emergency use in India. In some ways it's the beginning," Dr. Hotez told ABC13. "(We are) totally thrilled that she (Fletcher ) would think so highly of us to do this."
As a member of the national legislative body, Fletcher, a Democrat representing Texas' seventh congressional district, is among a select group of people able to nominate potential Nobel laureates.
"What's so special about what they have done is work on developing and distributing this vaccine to people around the world without any kind of patent or limitation on use," Fletcher said. "It's just remarkable work and we think it's important that we celebrate that here in the United States and that we promote that."
The nomination process is secretive. The Nobel committee itself does not release the names of nominees until 50 years after their consideration, but we do know the timetable for this year's awards. Nominations were due Monday, Jan. 31. In March, a shortlist is prepared and then reviewed between April and August. The winners are announced in early October and they receive their awards in Oslo, Norway on Dec. 10.
"The idea that we could get recognized for this is something very special," Hotez said.
On Tuesday, Fletcher was also among 14 members of Congress who sent a letter to the White House and President Joe Biden, in which they asked for the administration's help in getting the vaccine to those who need it around the world.
"What they have done really is of huge importance and benefit to nations around the world and to their people," Fletcher said.
Bottazzi and Hotez give credit to their team, which has worked tirelessly for years to help those who might otherwise be neglected to get access to vaccines.
"Texas represents the United Nations. It's so diverse and there is representation from almost every corner around the world. And I think that gave us the focus of what we needed to do for the world, especially during this pandemic," Bottazzi said.
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