Duke institute lands federal contract to make vaccines for clinical trials

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Duke researchers could make vaccines to be used in early clinical trials after receiving a federal contract that could be worth more than $50 million a year.

Duke Health officials said Tuesday that the Duke Human Vaccine Institute was awarded a contract that, if fully funded, could total $365 million over seven years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Duke’s institute could develop and manufacture potential new vaccines and treatments — such as HIV, for example — that are ready to be tested in humans.

“This expands the work we currently do at DHVI to be a resource for the entire nation’s vaccine development field,” said Dr. Thomas Denny, the institute’s chief operating officer and a principal investigator on the new contract.

Denny says Duke “had the foresight” to build a facility that could produce pharmaceutical-grade vaccines for its research.

“That investment created the infrastructure that will now be expanded for this broader application,” he said. “And we are excited to be positioned nationally to perform this work.”

The contract was issued under a new program that is designed to speed the development of vaccines or other therapies by giving researchers a way to test them.

When promising vaccines reach the clinical trial stage, they are frequently licensed to drug makers. Yet others are left out of human studies after they are passed over.

“Researchers often get an interesting discovery and the data are promising, but they can’t get funding for a clinical trial in humans, so this program addresses that.”

The contract also covers six aspects of the process at the institute, including the conducting of safety and immune response studies, assessing the feasibility of ramping up the production of vaccine candidates and building the manufacturing process for individual candidates.

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