Vaccinations are helpful in preventing infectious diseases and in decreasing the morbidity and mortality rates in the community. The role of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been pivotal in this regard by funding research and conducting clinical trials to test the efficacy and potency of different vaccinations before administering them to the general population.
The National Institutes of Health is now taking the process a step further by expanding the extensive network of clinical trial-conducting institutions, according to the latest reports released by officials on October 2nd, 2013.
Currently, the NIH funds and manages eight institutions that conduct clinical trials to test the safety and efficiency of promising vaccinations, but very soon, the ninth Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) will initiate functional operations. Together, the nine units will receive up to $135 million each year for a period of seven years, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) division of the NIH. It is noteworthy that the NIAD has also announced the expansion of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units to allow research in domestic, as well as in international research stations.
The director of the NIAID, Anthony Fauci, commented:
“The VTEUs have been an invaluable resource for testing important vaccines and treatments against deadly emerging infectious disease threats. Through these new awards, we are increasing the network’s capacity to study infectious diseases where they are endemic. This will allow us to learn more about the origin and evolution of emerging diseases and also improve the evaluation of diagnostics along with potential vaccines and treatments.”
The VTEU was established in 1962, and since then the unit has conducted a number of clinical trials in order to develop promising therapies for infectious diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, and influenza. Currently, the unit is conducting further studies to determine the safety profile of Tdap pertussis vaccine, and the strength of immune response, when administered to pregnant women and babies.
In September 2013, the VTEU launched two new trials, which focused mainly on studying the response of the investigational vaccine in combating infection against a newer variety of H7N9 avian influenza virus.
Fauci further added:
“Launching and obtaining results from such studies quickly is possible because the VTEUs have proved that they can rapidly enroll large numbers of participants. This agility is especially important for testing vaccines designed to counteract emerging infectious diseases of public health concern.”
The recently-awarded VTEU sites include the Baylor College of Medicine, along with other renowned universities like the Seattle-based Group Health Research Institute, Saint Louis University, University of Maryland, University of Iowa, Emory University, Duke Medicine, Vanderbilt University, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
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