SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

NIH expands network of VTEUs

The National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday that it would expand its nationwide group of institutions conducting clinical trials of promising vaccine candidates from eight to nine.

The nine Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units will have the potential to receive funding from the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases worth up to $135 million annually over a seven-year period. The NIAID also expanded the ability of the VTEUs to conduct research in domestic and international research locations.

"The VTEUs have been an invaluable resource for testing important vaccines and treatments against deadly emerging infectious disease threats," Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID, said. "Through these new awards, we are increasing the network's capacity to study infectious diseases where they are endemic. This will allow us to learn more about the origin and evolution of emerging diseases and also improve the evaluation of diagnostics along with potential vaccines and treatments."

Since their establishment in 1962, the VTEUs conducted hundreds of clinical trials on vaccines and therapeutics for diseases such as cholera, malaria, tuberculosis and influenza. The network is currently evaluating the safety and immune response generated by the Tdap pertussis vaccine in pregnant women and the effect of immunizing expectant mothers on their infants' immune responses to DTaP.

In September, the VTEUs launched two clinical trials to evaluate an investigational vaccine against the H7N9 avian influenza that recently emerged in humans in China.

"Launching and obtaining results from such studies quickly is possible because the VTEUs have proved that they can rapidly enroll large numbers of participants," Fauci said. "This agility is especially important for testing vaccines designed to counteract emerging infectious diseases of public health concern."

The newly awarded VTEU sites include the University of Maryland, University of Iowa, Vanderbilt University, Saint Louis University, the Seattle-based Group Health Research Institute, Emory University, Duke Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine.

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