UVM helping to test new vaccine for troops

Lauren Schnepf, Senior Staff Writer

UVM is testing a modernized vaccine that aims to protect military troops against the adenovirus infection.

Adenovirus is an infection that can cause acute respiratory disease, a leading cause of morbidity at military training facilities, according to a May 20 email from public relations director Jennifer Nachbur.

The Vaccine Testing Center (VTC) at the Larner College of Medicine has been testing the vaccine since spring 2017 in a project spearheaded by associate professor of medicine Caroline Lyon, the email stated.

An initial adenovirus vaccine was developed in the 1960s by the Department of the Army, but a call for the drug to be modernized was made by the Department of Defense in 2014, Nachbur stated in the email.

The modernized vaccine is based on the original vaccine since it uses the same virus strain. The updated version contains modern upgrades that will impact manufacturing and increase safety, Lyon said.

“This is a phase one study, so we are testing it for safety and tolerability, as well as looking at the human immune response to the vaccine,” she said.

Lyon said it is possible UVM will be involved with further testing of this vaccine after phase one is completed, but plans are unknown as of now.

Medical student Soraiya Thura said the testing of this vaccine will be beneficial to medical students seeking research experience.

“I imagine this study will provide opportunities for students who wish to participate in the research, especially for those students interested in infectious disease and public health,” Thura said.

The modernized vaccine was developed by PaxVax, a biotechnology company based in California, Nachbur stated.

Participants in the study will receive either the newly developed vaccine or the original vaccine developed in the 1960s. They will be monitored for one week as inpatients at the UVM Clinical Research Center, Nachbur stated.

UVM is one of only a few institutions that can do such inpatient clinical trials, Lyon said.

“The Center’s work has helped us as medical students at UVM Larner [College of Medicine] learn about the utmost importance of infectious disease prevention and controlling disease burden to save patient lives,” Thura said.

Lyon saidt this work elevates UVM’s image as a place to “look to for this type of research in infectious diseases.”

The study is looking for 10 healthy participants aged 18-35. Interested parties can contact the UVM Vaccine Testing Center (VTC) at 802-656-0013.