The University of Iowa is one of nine institutions nationwide to receive a multimillion-dollar contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to conduct clinical trials of promising vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases.
Each institution has the potential to receive funding estimated at up to $135 million per year over a seven-year period. With these new awards, NIAID will increase the number of funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs) from eight to nine and expand the ability of the units to conduct research in both domestic and international research locations, including endemic and resource-poor settings.
Patricia Winokur, professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and director of the University of Iowa Vaccine Research and Education Project, is the principal investigator for the UI VTEU.
"The capability to respond to emerging diseases is extremely important and this national network of VTEUs allows us to rapidly test vaccines in response to potential pandemic threats," Winokur says. "By conducting trials throughout the VTEU network we also can identify the roadblocks that might impair rapid response in a pandemic setting."
Winokur adds that Iowans have a strong track record for reliable and enthusiastic participation in vaccine studies, suggesting that this may have played a role in the NIAID decision to renew the contract for the UI VTEU. The UI was first awarded a VTEU contract in 2007.
"The Iowa site has enrolled extremely well into all of our studies, and we have tremendous compliance from our participants," she says. "We have enrolled nearly 2,200 volunteers into studies in the past seven years and have exceeded our target enrollments in 65 percent of our studies."
She also highlighted the close, cross-disciplinary collaboration among groups involved in conducting and monitoring clinical trials at the UI.
"We have a multidisciplinary group of investigators with expertise in infectious diseases, pulmonary medicine, gastroenterology, rheumatology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, microbiology, and immunology," Winokur notes. "Our team also includes faculty from the UI College of Pharmacy, and we have had strong cooperation from the Pharmacy Department, the Clinical Research Unit, and the pathology laboratories all within University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the University of Iowa Institutional Review Board, all of whom are critical to our success."
Established in 1962, the VTEUs have conducted hundreds of clinical trials, many of which have contributed to vaccine licensure. Studies at the UI VTEU have evaluated vaccines for smallpox, tularemia, influenza (including H1N1), rotavirus, herpes virus, human papilloma virus, and shingles.
The VTEUs are currently testing a vaccine against the H7N9 avian influenza virus that emerged in humans in China earlier this year.
The other eight Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit sites are Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati; Duke Medicine, Durham; Emory University, Atlanta; Group Health Research Institute, Seattle; Saint Louis University, Saint Louis; University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville.
A NIAID news release with additional information is available online.