COVID-19 Research: Treatments, Vaccines and Prevention
Researchers with the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD) in Baltimore have been testing a variety of therapies and vaccines that target COVID-19.
This ongoing research takes place on several fronts:
- Vaccine development
Research into COVID-19 Treatment
When a person is hospitalized at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) due to COVID-19, the patient may receive the investigational antiviral drug Remdesivir as part of a randomized controlled clinical trial.
This research is part of a national study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Remdesivir trial offers opportunities for our patients at UMMC to receive the drug under controlled conditions. Participating patients provide the critical data needed to license Remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment by the Food and Drug Administration.
Stem Cell Therapy
A UMMC patient was the first patient in the nation to be treated as part of a trial investigating cell therapy designed by Mesoblast Limited.
This therapy, which is part of a national trial, is intended for patients with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome who rely on ventilators for breathing assistance.
The UM School of Medicine (UMSOM) is currently conducting Phase 1 and Phase 3 clinical trials for mRNA vaccines – or messenger RNA vaccines – developed by Pfizer and Moderna, respectively. These mRNA vaccines, which direct the cells to make a spike protein that projects from the virus's surface, do not contain any part of the virus that causes COVID-19. Importantly, these vaccines can be produced quickly.
Researchers are also gearing up to begin a Phase 3 trial of a vaccine developed by Novavax, a vaccine candidate engineered from the genetic sequence of SARSCoV2. This Novavax vaccine uses recombinant nanoparticle technology to generate antigen derived from the coronavirus spike (S) protein.
In May, the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) became the first in the United States to begin testing experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer /BioNTech. In July, Pfizer received nearly $2 billion to produce a vaccine by the end of the year.
Early results published in September in Nature showed that trial participants tolerated these vaccines well. And healthy adult volunteers produced a robust immune response.
In September, UMSOM became one of the clinical research sites working on phase three testing of a vaccine from the biotech company Moderna. A key focus of this trial and future vaccine trials is to include populations most impacted by COVID-19, including those from the African American and Latino communities. For the first time in UMSOM's history, vaccine trials for this vaccine and future trials are being conducted in Hyattsville, MD, in partnership with Casa de Maryland, to ensure that the research includes individuals from Maryland's COVID-19 hotspot, Langley Park, MD. This is largely a Latino community.
"The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine has already shown promise in early testing in adults of all ages," says Karen Kotloff, MD, professor of pediatrics and one of the principal investigators. "This next trial will tell us whether it prevents COVID-19. It is critical that we include a diverse group of people in the trial, particularly those communities most impacted by this terrible virus, so the results will apply broadly to the population."
These trials include a uniquely structured study using telemedicine and couriers to test whether hydroxychloroquine — a drug in the same family of therapies used to treat malaria — can effectively help prevent COVID-19 in people exposed to the virus.
Most COVID-19 infection is transmitted within households, so UMSOM is working to protect individuals' health in the family and limit the broader spread of COVID-19. Early data from this study, which is now complete, show that this therapy was not effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine is recruiting for clinical trials related to COVID-19. See if you qualify at www.cvdtrials.org.