The US National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has launched a new clinical trials network for testing potential vaccines and monoclonal antibodies against Covid-19.

Called COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN), the network will enrol thousands of participants across large-scale trials.

COVPN was formed by merging the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC), and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

In addition to Covid-19 research, these networks will continue their independent trials for HIV vaccine and prevention, as well as other infectious diseases.

HVTN, based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will act as the COVPN’s operational centre.

The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said: “Establishing a unified clinical trial network is a key element of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, which aims to deliver substantial quantities of a safe, effective vaccine by January 2021.

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“Starting this summer, this new network will leverage existing infrastructure and engage communities to secure the thousands of volunteers needed for late-stage clinical trials of promising vaccines.”

The vaccine testing at COVPN will be led by Larry Corey from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Kathleen Neuzil from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, monoclonal antibody testing at the Covid-19 trials network will be led by Myron Cohen from the University of North Carolina and David Stephens from Emory University.

COVPN will leverage a vaccine protocol created by the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership.

It is expected that the network will operate more than 100 trial sites across the US and internationally.

NIH director Francis Collins noted: “Each of the Phase III clinical trials that the COVPN will conduct will require thousands of volunteers. Community engagement, particularly with the communities most vulnerable to Covid-19’s severe outcomes, will be critical to the success of this research endeavor.”

The first Phase III trial that the COVPN network is expected to conduct is of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine.