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First US SARS vaccine trial opens at NIH

Powerful research tools that speed up vaccine development have led to the start today of human tests for a preventive vaccine against the respiratory disease SARS. The disease killed hundreds of people around the world before it was brought under control in 2003 with aggressive conventional public health measures.

Researchers at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will conduct the trials. The experimental vaccine against SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, will be tested on 10 healthy volunteers at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. The clinic will do periodic follow-up exams on each volunteer for 32 weeks.

"This experimental vaccine is an outstanding achievement by NIAID researchers," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "It is a model for research that could greatly shorten the time needed to create vaccines to be tested against other diseases."

"The Vaccine Research Center, a cutting-edge facility established here at NIH just five years ago, encompasses the entire spectrum of vaccine development from basic research to clinical testing," says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "This is why our team at NIAID has been able to develop this vaccine at an unprecedented pace, using technological discoveries that were not available just a few short years ago."

The primary goal of the study is to determine if the experimental vaccine is safe in people. A secondary goal is to assess how well the vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies and cellular immunity, in this case, focusing on the SARS spike protein. The spike protein protrudes from the virus' outer envelope and helps it bind to cells it infects.

SARS was spotted first in China in November 2002. The virus sickened 8,096 and killed 774 worldwide by July 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). SARS was
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Contact: Linda Joy
ljoy@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
13-Dec-2004


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