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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

NIAID merges four clinical trials networks into COVPN, focusing on COVID-19 vaccine and antibody testing

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Streamlining processes this week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) created a new clinical trials network to gather thousands of volunteers together for testing of various investigational vaccines and monoclonal antibodies for use against COVID-19.

NIAID — a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — developed the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN) from four existing clinical trials networks: the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. All were networks funded by NIAID and will continue to perform their individual functions as well.

“Having a safe and effective medical countermeasure to prevent COVID-19 would enable us to not only save lives but also help end the global pandemic,” NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “Centralizing our 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.”

A functional unit of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, the network will be divided into two sides: vaccine testing and monoclonal antibody clinical testing. Vaccine testing at COVPN will be jointly led by Dr. Larry Correy of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. Kathleen Neuzil of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Antibody testing will be run by Drs. Myron Cohn of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and David Stephen of Emory University.

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

A website has been set up to allow people to volunteer for the network’s studies. COVPN has also set up a large community engagement framework for reaching research volunteers and explaining the specifics of their studies. When everything is in place, it should run more than 100 clinical trial sites throughout the world.

“Each of the Phase 3 clinical trials that the COVPN will conduct will require thousands of volunteers,” NIH Director Francis Collins said. “Community engagement, particularly with the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19’s severe outcomes, will be critical to the success of this research endeavor.”

COVPN’s first phase 3 clinical trial will likely focus on the investigational mRNA-1273 vaccine, developed by Moderna, Inc. and NIAID. It should start later this summer.