Baylor College of Medicine (BMC) is one of nine institutions that have been awarded a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to an article from college’s news department. These contracts will allow NIAID to expand the ability of the VTEUs to conduct research in domestic and international research locations, including resource-poor settings. Each of the nine institutions has the potential to receive funding up to $135 million a year, over a seven-year period.
Dr. Wendy Keitel, professor of molecular virology, microbiology and medicine, and principal investigator of the BCM VTEU, says in the article that the college “has been fortunate to have had a VTEU for over 40 years”. The new award “will strengthen and broaden the scope of research in our community and abroad,” she says, recognizing that their work “would not be possible without the contributions of our dedicated clinical, laboratory and administrative staff, as well as our research collaborators. We are grateful to the members of greater Houston area for their participation in the important work being done at BCM. Without their help we would be unable to fulfill our mission of developing new approaches to the control of a number of serious infectious diseases.”
VTEUs were established in 1962 and have conducted hundreds of clinical trials, many of which have contributed to vaccine licensure. The BCM VTEU has worked on numerous vaccines, including those for prevention of influenza, whooping cough, bacterial pneumonia, smallpox, tularemia, anthrax, and parasitic microbes. These studies have been performed in diverse populations, including infants, children, pregnant women, younger adults, as well as in the elderly, chronically ill and other high risk persons.
Currently, BCM VTEU investigators are studying candidate pandemic influenza vaccines (including H7N9 ‘bird flu’ and H3N2v ‘swine flu’ vaccines), pneumococcal vaccines, novel seasonal influenza vaccines, an HIV vaccine and a smallpox vaccine. BCM VTEU investigators include Drs. Robert Atmar (co-principal investigator of the VTEU), Hana El Sahly, Andres Gutierrez, Hoonmo Koo, Flor Munoz, Shital Patel and Pedro Piedra. The new contract will also support studies at other institutions in Houston (University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston and Kelsey Seybold Research Foundation) and at international sites in Peru and Mozambique.
The other institutions that have been awarded a VTEU contract are Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Duke Medicine, Emory University, Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Saint Louis University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University.