Fred Hutch to Coordinate International COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

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Coronavirus structure, illustration
[Credit: ROGER HARRIS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images]

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has appointed Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to coordinate the worldwide new clinical trials network—known as the COVID-19 Prevention Network (COVPN)—with trials beginning this summer.

Funded by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and tasked with discovering vaccines and antibodies to prevent COVID-19, COVPN will operate at least five large-scale efficacy trials with more than 100 clinical trial sites in the U.S. and worldwide, according to a July 8 statement by Fred Hutch.

“We need multiple successful vaccines to protect the entire global population from COVID-19 and stop the spread of a virus that has killed so many people, infected many more and disrupted our way of life,” said Larry Corey, M.D., renowned virologist and past president and director of Fred Hutch, who will co-lead the COVPN’s vaccine testing pipeline along with Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland.

“I’m optimistic that the extraordinary cooperation of industry, government and the scientific community, working in concert with the citizenry of our country, as well as our international partners, will allow us to conduct these trials with the highest standards of safety and scientific accuracy,” Corey said.

COVPN will bring together the infrastructure and expertise of four existing NIAID-funded clinical trials networks, including the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, based at Fred Hutch; the Durham, N.C.-based HIV Prevention Trials Network; the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC), based in Atlanta; and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, based in Los Angeles. Each of these individual networks will continue to perform clinical trials for HIV vaccine and prevention and other infectious diseases in addition to their new COVID roles, NIH said.

The COVPN is a key element of Operation Warp Speed, a federal effort to deliver a “safe, effective vaccine by January 2021,” according to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “Starting this summer, this new network will leverage existing infrastructure and engage communities to secure the thousands of volunteers needed for late-stage clinical trials of promising vaccines,” Azar said.

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, M.D. said that centralizing the COVID-19 clinical research efforts into a single trials network “will expand the resources and expertise needed to efficiently identify safe and effective vaccines and other prevention strategies against COVID-19.”

COVPN’s large-scale vaccine efficacy studies are expected to enroll between 10,000 to 30,000 individuals per trial, at sites in the U.S. and internationally, according to NIH.

“Fred Hutch’s depth of expertise in immunology and virology has led us to take an active role in responding to COVID-19, from our involvement in these vaccine efficacy studies, to research in infectious disease modeling, genomic epidemiology and immunology,” said Julie McElrath, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch. “The team at Fred Hutch is honored to play such an important role in developing safe and effective COVID vaccines.”

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