November 12, 2007
$23.7M NIH award places Emory in elite vaccine research group
By holly korschun
Emory and its physician/scientists will play a leading national role in evaluating promising new vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases in adults and children as one of the newest members of a group of Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units. The VTEUs are funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health.
Along with designation as part of the eight-member VTEU group, Emory has been awarded a seven-year contract of approximately $23.7 million. The award has subcontracts to collaborators at the Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente Georgia, the University of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The VTEUs were established in 1962 as a vital research component of the NIAID. The units conduct clinical trials for all infectious diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including bacterial, viral and parasitic vaccines, therapeutics and other biologics and drugs for prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in people of all ages and risk categories. The VTEUs have conducted hundreds of clinical studies over the past four decades.
The NIAID awarded eight new seven-year contracts this year to expand and strengthen the VTEUs and enhance the ability of NIAID to respond quickly to emerging public health needs.
"Emory's strong basic and translational science programs within the Emory Vaccine Center and our infectious diseases programs in the Emory Children's Center, combined with our track record in clinical trials and infectious diseases treatment and research in adults and children, presented a very strong portfolio to the NIH," said Mark Mulligan, principal investigator of the Emory VTEU, professor of medicine and executive director of the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center.
As a VTEU site, Emory and its partner institutions will design and conduct clinical trials of candidate vaccines and therapeutics and related studies in surveillance and epidemiology, policy and education, and innovative laboratory analyses of immune responses. Participants in the clinical trials will include children and adults of all ages, as well as special targeted population groups.
The Georgia Research Alliance, a partnership of research universities, industry and state government, will provide a $2 million matching grant to the Emory VTEU.
"The Emory VTEU initiative highlights our outstanding progress in vaccine research and development in the region and will engage the Atlanta community" said David Stephens, executive associate dean for research and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine. "Emory's participation and national research leadership should be of direct benefit to the citizens of Atlanta and Georgia as important vaccines and therapies are moved from the laboratory into patient care."
An important strength of the VTEUs is their ability to rapidly recruit, enroll and retain volunteers and vaccinate them in a manner that is safe, effective and quick to yield results. This rapid-response capability is especially important for testing vaccines designed to counteract emerging public health concerns, such as pandemic influenza.
"We are excited to have this opportunity to make a major contribution to our nation's vaccine development efforts," said Harry Keyserling, professor of pediatrics and a co-director of the Emory VTEU. "Vaccines have always been our most effective weapons in battling diseases that broadly affect public health.”
The Emory Vaccine Center will play a key role in the Emory VTEU. The Vaccine Center, located at multiple sites including the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, is one of the largest and most successful academic vaccine centers in the world, with more than 27 faculty and over 200 staff focused on vaccine development and testing. The Vaccine Center's Hope Clinic has been one of the top-enrolling sites for clinical trials of HIV vaccines sponsored by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network sponsored by the NIH.
Rafi Ahmed, director of the Vaccine Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, will serve as the Emory VTEU's associate director for vaccine immunology. The Emory Children's Center, directed by Barbara Stoll, chair and professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, is a national leader in infectious diseases prevention and treatment. Keyserling and Paul Spearman, professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric infectious diseases, are co-directors of the Emory VTEU. Walter Orenstein, professor of medicine and associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center, will serve as the VTEU associate director for policy and education.