New EU clinical network launched to accelerate trialling Covid-19 vaccines

Network to act as rapid response single entry-point for all stakeholders

Ireland is one of 21 member countries participating in a new European Union (EU) vaccine clinical network which has been launched to accelerate the trialling of Covid-19 vaccines, writes Maureen Browne.

VACCELERATE, the European Corona Vaccine Trial Accelerator Platform, will be the pan-European backbone accelerating Phase 2 and 3 Covid-19 vaccine trials, connecting all stakeholders involved in vaccine development and providing a platform for clinical trial design and conduct.

Irish Partners are University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Galway, led from UCD by infectious diseases expert Prof. Paddy Mallon, director of UCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research (CEPHR) and consultant at St Vincent’s University Hospital Infectious Diseases department.

VACCELERATE network partners are funded under the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding framework. UCD has been awarded €886,111.25 under the EU-wide Covid-19 vaccine trial network call.

The network constitutes a rapid response single entry-point for all stakeholders from public health authorities to vaccine developers, to address respective needs and kick-start Phase 2 and 3 vaccine trials.

Prof. Mallon said: “This initiative forms the basis of a pan-European effort to increase its response to the current pandemic through co-ordinated clinical and translational research, as well as enabling Europe and Ireland to be better prepared for future pandemics.

“In my role as National Co-ordinator for the VACCELERATE network, I will be involved in identifying and linking clinical sites across Ireland to opportunities to participate in vaccine research, to enable Ireland and its citizens to fully participate in vaccine research into Covid-19 and other pandemic infections.

“The award to UCD recognises the considerable research undertaken by the university and CEPHR which will play leading roles in developing and validating new assays to be used in vaccine trials as part of VACCELERATE, as well as providing laboratory capacity to this important European Network to assist with specialist laboratory and research capacity.

“This EU funding builds on the track record of CEPHR in conducting research into SARS-CoV-2, including large clinical studies and basic research in our Biosafety Containment Level 3 facility.

“This award also builds on existing investment by Science Foundation Ireland into Covid-19 research in UCD and CEPHR, including awards focused on developing neutralising assays, bioprofiling studies and sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 as part of the Irish Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium.”

Director of the UCD Clinical Research Centre and Associate Dean of Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD School of Medicine, Prof. Peter Doran said: “An essential component of the VACCELERATE Network will be the alignment of our vaccine trial methods so large-scale, Europe-wide clinical trials can be initiated quickly whilst maintaining the highest regulatory and scientific standards.

“Our work will diffuse a detailed set of protocols and standards across all the partners, so we can establish new trials quickly.”

VACCELERATE will allow capacity mapping of clinical trial and laboratory sites across Europe, to identify suitable sites for individual Phase 2 and 3 vaccine trials.

In addition to providing access to laboratories and a standardised set of assays essential for clinical Phase 2 and 3 trials, the network will also build capacity and increase quality across the bloc via shared best practice and training, while volunteer registries will facilitate patient recruitment.

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