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Local clinical trial will test possible coronavirus vaccine

The University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health will join forces on a clinical trial to study a potential coronavirus vaccine.

(Image provided by University of Rochester Medical Center).

(Image provided by University of Rochester Medical Center).

The randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial will recruit 90 individuals in the Rochester area, ages 18 to 85, who have not been infected with COVID-19 and will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of up to four variations of the vaccine.

The vaccine was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

“There is a tremendous urgency to develop a vaccine that will help us fight this global pandemic,” Dr. Edward Walsh, a professor in the URMC Department of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and member of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Rochester General Hospital, said in a news release.

“While the scientific and medical community are moving at an unprecedented speed to advance vaccine candidates,” Walsh said, “it is critical that this effort be conducted in a rigorous manner that evaluates the safety and efficacy of potential vaccines. This new clinical trial is the first step in that process.”

Walsh and Dr. Ann R. Falsey, co-director of the URMC Vaccine Trials and Evaluation Unit and a member of the Infectious Disease at RGH, are leading the Rochester arm of the study.

Pfizer contracted with URMC to conduct the clinical trial in Rochester and the recruitment of study volunteers and testing of the vaccine will occur at Rochester General Hospital. The study is the only active COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in upstate New York, and just one of four cities in the U.S. testing the Pfizer/BioNTech creation.

While there are approximately 100 potential COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of development, the Pfizer/BioNTech experimental vaccine is one of only seven that have advanced to human clinical trials worldwide.

Traditionally, effective vaccines against viruses like hepatitis A and B and influenza contain protein components of the virus called antigens to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies and immune cells that provide protection from infection, URMC said.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, however, will utilize a relatively new genetic engineering method to stimulate the immune system to produce a protective response to the new coronavirus.

The vaccines are composed of short sequences of the virus RNA, known as messenger RNA (mRNA), which provide precise instructions to the recipients’ own cells to produce the virus antigens. While experimental vaccines against cancer and bird flu have used a similar mRNA strategy, there are currently no approved RNA vaccines for humans, URMC said.

To learn more about volunteering for the clinical trial, call (585) 922-5944 or email rghcovidvaccinetrial@rochesterregional.org.

koklobzija@bridgetowermedia.com / (585) 653-4020

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