NIH awards contract to Tulane to study COVID-19 vaccines and treatments

April 13, 2020

The National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded Tulane University’s National Primate Research Center a contract of up to $10.3 million to evaluate promising vaccines and treatments to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the university said in a news release.

The three-year NIH/NIAID award will initially study three species of nonhuman primates to determine which most closely mimics COVID-19 infection and transmission as experienced by humans. A nonhuman primate model will provide key information about the characteristics of the disease and will help researchers determine which candidate COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are safe and effective.

A nonhuman primate model also helps researchers understand which underlying health conditions, or comorbidities, can make some people more susceptible to complications from the disease.

Past attempts to study emergent coronavirus infections such as SARS and MERS in laboratory animals have been challenging, Tulane said. Early efforts have signaled that COVID-19 may be no different, punctuating the urgency for intensive research activity in this area. Once a reliable nonhuman primate model of disease has been established, Tulane researchers will then test promising vaccines and therapeutics for safety and effectiveness before promoting them for use in human clinical trials.

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