School of Medicine Expands to RTP, January 2021

Read the original July 21, 2020 article here or read more below!
Rendering of Duke Campus in the Research Triangle Park

The Duke University School of Medicine is expanding into a newly-leased research center in the Research Triangle Park (RTP). The 273,000 square foot facility in the Parmer RTP research and development campus, formerly home to pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline, is currently being renovated to accommodate School of Medicine faculty, staff and labs as soon as January 2021.

The expansion into RTP was precipitated by a surge in new federal research grants to fund vaccine development. In 2019, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) received a large Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) federal contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop, manufacture and test in humans more durable, longer-lasting vaccines against influenza. Additional grants are funding vaccine development for HIV and most recently for COVID-19.

Researchers working on the Duke CIVICs initiative as well as scientists in the Departments of Surgery, Immunology, Pediatrics, and Medicine, will occupy the new facility. The center is projected to reach full capacity in 2022, said Thomas Denny, associate dean for Duke RTP Administration and chief operating officer for DHVI.

Denny said that while School of Medicine leadership considered several options for the much-needed space, the decision to lease the space in RTP was driven by the opportunity to move in quickly and support ongoing and rapidly evolving vaccine development research. The location, just 10 minutes from the main Duke campus in Durham, is also a plus as many of the researchers will be frequently traveling between the campuses.

Greg Sempowski, PhD, one of the initial CIVICs investigators who will occupy the new Duke laboratory space in RTP, believes that the purpose-built lab space for the CIVICs team will “accelerate the iterative process of developing the next generation of influenza vaccines through pre-clinical and clinical investigation.” Sempowski is a professor in medicine and director of Duke’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory.  

Nicholas Heaton, PhD, assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, will also move a portion of his lab to the new space. “Our group is excited by the opportunities that will be afforded by the high concentration of researchers with common scientific goals as well as the unique entrepreneurial atmosphere of RTP,” said Heaton.

“My goal is that the people on the team at this center will become highly interactive, communicating and cross talking with each other,” said Denny. “Not only will we go there to set out on the work that we’re currently funded for, but this will also create an environment for seeding many new projects going forward.”

“An additional hope I have is that being out there will make it easier for us to network with individuals in the biotechnology industry, creating new partnerships in the public-private arena,” he added.

This article originally appeared on the Duke University School of Medicine blog.

2020 Flu Season: What To Know

The Duke Human Vaccine Institute interviewed Duke CIVICs Principal Investigator Dr. Tony Moody about this year’s flu season. Read the original article here or read more below!  

The 2020 flu season is upon us and like many, we have concerns and questions. We talked to DHVI Investigator, Tony Moody, MD for answers.

Dr. Tony Moody is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Immunology at Duke University Medical Center. He is the director of the Duke CIVICs Vaccine Center (DCVC) at DHVI and co-director of the Centers for Research of Emerging Infectious Disease Coordinating Center (CREID-CC). He also serves as director of the DHVI Accessioning Unit.

What should we expect from this year’s flu season amidst the coronavirus pandemic? Should people worry it will be worse?

We really have no idea what to expect for this year’s flu season because we’ve never been in this situation before. It is possible that we will have a mild season because the social distancing and mask wearing for COVID-19 will also reduce influenza disease burden; in fact, the flu season came to an early end last spring primarily because people were no longer coming into contact and transmitting it. On the other hand, if people don’t distance and we have a resurgence of COVID-19, it could make the influenza season much worse because people could be coinfected and that could be bad. 


What are some things people can do to stay flu free?

First and foremost, get your vaccine this year. This will be good because 1) it will reduce the chance you will get flu and 2) if you don’t get flu, you are less likely to have to go to the doctor where you might be exposed to other things that sick people have.

Second, good hygiene, including hand sanitizing and the usual things like covering your mouth when you sneeze/cough, or doing those things into your elbow.

Third, this year I would avoid crowds as much as possible. Crowds are a great place for respiratory virus transmission, both because of close proximity and because people touch lots of things and then touch their face.

Fourth, take care of yourself, including eating well and doing other things to keep yourself physically and mentally strong. Exercise isn’t a bad idea, either.

Will people be able to tell the difference between flu and SARS-CoV-2?

Probably, but there may be significant overlap in symptoms. Both can make you feel terrible, both can make you need medical care. The only real way to know for sure is getting a test when you are sick. We are all concerned about the availability of tests this fall, but if you are sick, go seek care. Even if you want to avoid the doctor’s office or ER because you are afraid of getting sick, you are better off getting seen and getting the right care. If you wait, things can get worse rapidly, and that won’t be a good thing.

How soon should people get vaccinated?

Sooner rather than later. There are always debates about both vaccine waning over the season and whether there will be a good match. You can’t do anything about the vaccine match, but by getting the vaccine earlier in the season, you are getting the biggest benefit. This is because the circulating virus can change over the season, and the vaccine match is usually highest early in the season. So even if you get vaccinated late to avoid the waning problem, the match can be worse so you end up losing the benefit of waiting. Get it now.

Duke Vaccine Institute Plays Integral Role in National Effort to Improve Flu Shots

DURHAM, N.C. — As part of a massive national effort to improve and modernize flu shots, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute has received three research contracts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), with an initial award of approximately $29.6 million in first-year funding.

If the options on all three contracts are exercised, total funding could be up to $400 million over seven years, which would be the largest federal multi-contract award supporting one program in Duke’s history. The contracts are part of an ambitious initiative under NIAID aimed at developing a longer-lasting, more broadly protective vaccine to replace the seasonal flu shot.

“The Duke Human Vaccine Institute has long been a global leader in the research and development of lifesaving vaccines, and these extraordinary contracts will strengthen the institute’s efforts to develop innovative solutions to one of the most pervasive and intractable health challenges we face today,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. “This work reflects Duke’s commitment to addressing the world’s most pressing problems, and we are proud that it will be conducted by these teams of Duke researchers.”

Current flu vaccines do not protect against all varieties of the virus and require new formulations each year, which are based on predictions of what is likely to be circulating during flu season. A more universally protective vaccine could cut the toll of influenza, which kills 300,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year and causes up to 5 million cases of severe infection that often result in costly hospitalizations.

Duke is the only institution to receive a contract in each of the three CIVICs components, including work to the design and evaluate influenza vaccine approaches, manufacture and evaluate the safety and toxicity of vaccine platforms, and conduct clinical trials for influenza vaccines.

“The Duke Human Vaccine Institute has established a niche working on very difficult vaccines and scientific problems that are not easily solvable outside the context of team science,” said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).

“We’ve done a really good job with the Center for HIV Vaccine and Immunology consortium for over 15 years and we’ve just been funded for another seven years to finish that work,” Haynes said. “Our experience in HIV leads directly to our being able to join the universal flu vaccine effort and impact it immediately.”

The vaccine development contract awarded $7.9 million in first-year funding, with up to $107.5 million over seven years if all the contract options are awarded. It will be led by M. Anthony Moody, M.D., associate professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Immunology at Duke School of Medicine.

Duke is one of three academic centers awarded the CIVICs vaccine development contracts.
As part of vaccine development, the DHVI team will conduct basic immunology and virology research to identify potential vaccine candidates. Moody said some of this work has already been done, and candidates are already in contention. For this portion of the project, Moody said, Duke’s contract encompasses collaborative work with Boston Children’s Hospital, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas.

“A big part of the vaccine center is really focused on basic immunology,” Moody said. “We will be asking fundamental questions about what we want, how to measure success, and then how to achieve it. This initiative brings together a great group of scientists in the field who have a lot of ideas. We’ll test those ideas and really let the science drive it and figure out which ones are best.”

The second contract, $13.8 million in first-year funding and valued up to $116.7 million over seven years if all options are exercised, is for vaccine manufacturing and will be led by Matthew R. Johnson, Ph.D., senior director of product development at the DHVI.

Johnson oversees a facility within the DHVI that houses state of-the-art equipment and meets Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards for the production of vaccine products used in proof-of-concept Phase I clinical trials.

“We have research scientists working directly with the teams that are developing manufacturing processes and then producing human vaccines,” Johnson said. We don’t see that anywhere else within the pharmaceutical industry, and it’s very rare in the academic community, as well.

“What that enables us to do is speed the development of novel therapies from the research bench all the way to human clinical trials,” Johnson said, adding that the DHVI is the only contract recipient for vaccine production under of the CIVICs project.

The third contract for the DHVI, $7.9 million in first-year funding and valued at up to $176.6 million over seven years if all options are exercised, provides funding for clinical trials that test the vaccine candidates developed through the CIVICs program. Duke is one of two centers receiving contracts to run the clinical trials.

The principal investigator for the clinical trials contract is Emmanuel “Chip” Walter, M.D., a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine and chief medical officer of the DHVI. This phase will test promising vaccines in small groups of healthy adult participants.
Successful vaccine candidates may eventually be advanced to larger clinical trials and human challenge studies in healthy adults and people at high risk of the most serious complications of flu, including children, pregnant women and older adults.

“We have broad range of investigators and expertise that has placed the DHVI on the forefront of vaccine development,” Walter said, citing both the center’s track record in HIV vaccine development as well as for flu. Responding to the 2009 pandemic flu, he said, the DHVI team was involved in testing a vaccine before it was used in the broader population.

“The Duke Human Vaccine Institute is well-poised to conduct this research under this endeavor,” Walter said. He noted that the Duke contract on this portion of the project provides for work with researchers at the University of Iowa and Imperial College London.

Duke’s participation in the CIVICs project is the most expansive of the group of academic centers involved and reflects the institute’s stewardship of complicated research efforts, Haynes said. Under his leadership, the DHVI has led HIV vaccine development since 2005 and recently was awarded $129 million to move into the final stages of vaccine development for that initiative.

In addition to researching HIV and influenza, investigators at the DHVI conduct basic and translational research to develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, cytomegalovirus and the zika flavivirus.

“For decades, Duke researchers have been at the forefront of advancing the technology and science of vaccine development for infectious diseases, particularly HIV,” said Mary E. Klotman, M.D., dean of Duke University School of Medicine. “Now, it is exciting to see the progress they have made to inform and impact vaccine development for many other areas.

“These contracts with NIAID provide critical funding that will allow researchers at Duke to focus specifically on the development of a vaccine that will provide broad and lasting protection against influenza, saving potentially hundreds of thousands of lives each year,” Klotman said.

“We at Duke are honored to participate in this ambitious national endeavor to develop a new flu vaccine and are proud of the remarkably important work that has been done over the years at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute,” said A. Eugene Washington, M.D., Duke University chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University Health System.

“Considering the stellar record of excellence and impact by our community of researchers, staff and trainees at the DHVI and throughout Duke, we are tremendously confident this new massive national effort will succeed and indeed improve health worldwide,” Washington said.