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Emory University tapped to lead national infectious disease, vaccine effort

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Jill Wu
Emory University

ATLANTA –The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has selected Emory University to lead a new effort aimed at developing vaccines and other therapies to combat infectious diseases.

Emory is leading eight academic institutions that will form the new Infectious Diseases (ID) Clinical Research Consortium Leadership Group. The group will also include a national and global network of collaborators and scientific experts.

David S. Stephens, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine in Emory University School of Medicine and vice president for research of Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center, will serve as the ID leadership group’s principal investigator along with Kathleen Neuzil, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIAID intends to provide approximately $29 million per year over seven years for nine Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs) around the country and the companion leadership group.

“Emory has established itself as the nation’s leader in vaccines and therapeutic treatments for infectious diseases,” says Stephens. “Our journey to this leadership group began several years ago with investments in infectious diseases research and faculty, and the development of Emory Vaccine Center. This new network of expertise and resources allows us to diversify the approaches to prevent, treat and evaluate infectious diseases, not only nationally but also on a global scale.”

For more than half a century, NIAID has supported the VTEUs which have performed high-quality clinical research to test new vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases in adults and children. Emory has been one of the VTEU sites since 2007. Emory’s award was recently renewed, meaning the unit will continue to help lead the development and evaluation of vaccines and treatments through clinical trials.

Nadine Rouphael, MD, associate professor of medicine and interim director of the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center; Evan Anderson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine in Emory University School of Medicine; and Carlos del Rio, MD, professor of medicine and global health and associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine, serve as the co-principal investigators of the Emory VTEU.

“Our work at Emory VTEU is to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical trials in order to evaluate the way we respond to challenging infectious diseases that remain major threats to public health,” says Rouphael. “Emory has been a leader in vaccinology, and we look forward to continue supporting NIAID’s collaborative efforts in the discovery and evaluation of new vaccines and therapeutics.”

Moving forward, the nine VTEUs will work with the new leadership group to enhance integration, efficiency and collaboration in order to address NIAID priorities, such as developing influenza vaccines that deliver broad and long-lasting protection. To respond to public health emergencies, the leadership group will have the capacity to rapidly organize and initiate clinical trials at the VTEU sites.

Additional Emory faculty members who will serve on the ID leadership group include Monica Farley, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine; Rafi Ahmed, PhD, director of Emory Vaccine Center; Jeffrey Lennox, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical research in the School of Medicine; Igho Ofotokun, MD, professor of medicine in the School of Medicine; Sidnee Young, administrative director in the School of Medicine; and Walter Orenstein, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics and associate director of Emory Vaccine Center.

The other seven institutions represented on the ID leadership group are Baylor College of Medicine; John Hopkins University; University of Alabama Birmingham; University of Cincinnati (and Cincinnati Children’s); University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Washington (and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center); and Vanderbilt University. The grant number for the leadership group award is 1 UM1 AI148684-01.

The other eight VTEU sites are Baylor College of Medicine; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute; Saint Louis University; University of Maryland School of Medicine; University of Rochester; University of Washington; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The grant number for Emory VTEU award is 1 UM1 AI148576-01.

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