Vaccines and Treatments

Developing new vaccines and treatments

The IU Health University Hospital, home of the Clinical Research Center and current site of the only vaccine study in Indiana

A Phase III clinical trial for Indiana

Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca chose the IU School of Medicine to participate in a late-stage clinical trial in partnership with Oxford University, testing a vaccine known as AZD1222. The Phase III clinical trial, a part of the U.S. Health and Human Services Operation Warp Speed, is the last required stage before the potential vaccine can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for widespread public use.

Overall, the trial aims to enroll 30,000 participants at 80 different sites around the United States. The IU School of Medicine site, housed within the Clinical Research Center at IU Health University Hospital, is the only site in Indiana for the study.

This extraordinary opportunity to advance testing of the vaccine candidate is led by Cynthia Brown, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the IU School of Medicine.

Within minutes of the trial being announced, more than 3,000 Hoosiers signed up to participate through All IN for Health, a program made possible by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute that is dedicated to improving the health of Indiana residents by promoting health resources and research and clinical study opportunities. Recognizing the importance of including participants from many backgrounds to determine the best preventative treatment, the Indiana team will connect with minority groups to encourage participation in this important study, as it tests the potential of a vaccine for the people of Indiana and the world.

Protecting children against COVID-19

Leveraging three decades of ongoing work studying rotavirus, a very common childhood illness, IU researchers pivoted to focus this expertise on developing a vaccine that will protect children against COVID-19.

John Patton and Asha Philip working, pre-COVID, in Patton's laboratory

The goal is to reengineer rotavirus to make virus strains that also produce the coronavirus spike protein, so when a child is immunized with rotavirus vaccine, they may also be protected from COVID-19.

So far, Asha Philip, a graduate student in the John Patton laboratory, has generated several recombinant rotaviruses that grow well, are stable, and are very efficient in expressing the spike protein, all valuable qualities in developing potential vaccine candidates. The Patton lab team has also discovered the recombinant rotaviruses can be expected to induce immune responses in vaccinated individuals that will help protect them against SARS-CoV-2 infections. Another lab member, Chantal Agbemabiese, is helping to modify the viruses into strains appropriate for use in infants and young children. The team is assessing the effectiveness of the strains to determine which are best suited as vaccine candidates.

A vaccine for children is critical, because children can be asymptomatic carriers spreading COVID-19 disease throughout families and communities. Patton and his team are working tirelessly to make sure those children can receive a vaccine that is safe and effective in reducing the severity of their disease and the pandemic's spread.

John Patton is an associate professor of biology and Blatt Chair of virology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.