Duke Human Vaccine Institute receives $11M grant to help build defenses against future diseases

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Duke lands $11M grant to fight future diseases
"The idea here is to not only deal with the current pandemic, but to also deal with what could potentially come in the future."

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) landed an $11.2 million funding boost from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to manufacture a pan-Coronavirus vaccine.

The funding will allow DHVI to move forward in their production of the vaccine and begin phase one clinical trials in late 2023 or early 2024.

"The idea here is to not only deal with the current pandemic, but to also deal with what could potentially come in the future," said the institute's director of research Dr. Kevin O. Saunders. "And the way we try to predict what's coming in the future is by looking at what viruses are present in animal populations that could at some point spill over to humans."

The news presents itself as an opportunity to address the current COVID-19, which the White House announced Monday will end its public health declaration on May 11, and to present itself as an option to other SARS-CoV2 diseases in the future that have yet to present itself to humans.

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While the COVID-19 vaccine was developed extremely quickly as part of the Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed, Saunders is unsure of when the full version of Duke's pan-Coronavirus vaccine will be available for public use.

"It's only at the very early stages of just making sure that it's safe before we move forward into the larger trials," Saunders said. "And we have to make through make it through phase one, phase two and phase three trials prior to it ever being commercialized and showing up on the shelf in a pharmacy somewhere."

That date could come in 2025 or sooner depending on how participants in the trials react.

Saunders also said the hope is that Duke's pan-vaccine would protect against COVID-19 and its subvariants, as well as future mutations of COVID and other related viruses.

"This will really be one that's going to be effective, we believe, against the SARS related viruses. And so if there's another virus that comes along related to SARS cov1 or SARS cov2, we believe this vaccine will provide immunity against those," he said.

The funding by NIAID, which is a division of the National Institute of Health, has the potential of reaching the sum of $21.5 million if additional, and unspecified, options are met.

In a press release, Saunders said, "With the potential for future coronavirus outbreaks to occur and the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to present a public health challenge, we are excited to expand our translational science program to include coronavirus vaccine development and clinical trials."