NIH Renews Contract with the Center for Immunization Research to Continue the Development and Evaluation of Life-Saving Vaccines

The Johns Hopkins Center for Immunization Research (CIR) will continue its partnership  at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop vaccines for infectious diseases of global importance (NIAID Contract 75N93019D00031; award up to $73 milion).  Since 1985, the CIR has conducted clinical trials and controlled human infection (challenge) studies to support the clinical evaluation of viral vaccines developed by NIAID researchers,  including vaccines for respiratory viruses (respiratory syncytial virus [RSV], influenza, human metapneumovirus and parainfluenza viruses), and arboviruses (including Dengue and Zika viruses). The clinical studies will be led by professors Ruth Karron, MD, and Anna Durbin, MD, in the Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Areas of initial emphasis will include the evaluation of  RSV, Dengue, and Zika vaccines.

RSV is the most important cause of pneumonia in infants and young children worldwide. In the United States, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for infants less than one year of age; globally, RSV causes up to 33 million cases of lower respiratory illness and 118,000 deaths in children under 5 years of age. Center Director Karron leads the work on clinical evaluation of live-attenuated pediatric RSV vaccines developed at the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID. “We are making rapid progress in the development of a safe and effective RSV vaccine for infants and young children,” Karron says.

Dengue and Zika are flaviviruses transmitted by mosquitos. Dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death within the tropics and subtropics, with over a third of the world’s population at risk of infection. There are as many as 400 million cases worldwide per year with 500,000 resulting in hospitalization and 25,000 in death. Zika virus causes symptoms in one in five cases of infection, however if contracted during pregnancy it can lead to microcephaly, preterm birth and miscarriage of the fetus. Durbin and her team focus on the development and evaluation of vaccines for Dengue, West Nile Virus, and Zika. In addition, Durbin has worked with scientists at the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases and the Laboratory of Viral Diseases, NIAID,  to develop controlled human infection models for dengue. This work led to selection of a live-attenuated tetravalent dengue vaccine developed at the NIH that is currently in Phase 3 clinical evaluation in Brazil. Durbin states, “This contract renewal is critical to development and evaluation of safe and effective dengue and Zika vaccines and to the development of a controlled human infection model (CHIM) for Zika. A Zika CHIM may be critical for the efficacy evaluation of any candidate Zika vaccine.”

Karron adds, “We look forward to continuing this work with our NIH colleagues, which will speed the development of vaccines that are critically important for global equity and well-being.”

The Center for Immunization Research facilitates the development of new vaccines for infectious diseases of global importance. Based in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Center is comprised of a group of dedicated faculty and staff committed to the local and global expansion of research activities in the areas of vaccine development, evaluation and policy.

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