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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

Medical school researchers awarded more than $2 million to test Zika vaccine in Brazil

Researchers from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences have been awarded more than $2 million from a research contractor to run a Zika vaccine trial in Brazil, according to a release Monday.

A team of researchers, including David Diemert and Jeffrey Bethony, associate professors in the department of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine, will run a trial with 100 subjects in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. About 2,400 people in total from across Central and South America, Puerto Rico and the southern United States will participate in the trial, according to the release.

Leidos Biomedical Research, a Maryland-based contractor, will provide the grant to run the testing site in Brazil, according to the release.

The researchers will monitor the transmission of the virus and study the safety of the vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health, compared to a placebo, according to the release.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that occurs seasonally in Brazil and is known to cause birth defects, according to the release. A high-profile Zika epidemic swept through South and Central America last year and eventually led to several cases in the United States.

The DNA vaccine uses the virus’ genetics to prepare a strong bodily response. It can be given to pregnant women, unlike a live virus, which can impact babies, according to the release.

“We are going into what is expected to be the transmission season in Brazil,” Diemert said in the release. “That’s one of the reasons we are heading into this trial now. The people in these areas will be vaccinated before we would start to see cases of Zika.”

The study will follow participants who receive the vaccine for a two-year period. If the study is successful, the vaccine could advance prevention techniques against Zika in affected areas, according to the release.

The trial in Brazil will be completed in partnership with Hospital das Clínicas and the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Belo Horizonte and is sponsored by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, according to the release.

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