News items Faster development of medicines and vaccines against infectious diseases

21 March 2024

Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Radboudumc, Amsterdam UMC, UMC Utrecht and the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) joined forces and received a kick-start grant of 9.5 million euros from ZonMw to establish a Dutch facility for early clinical research on drugs and vaccines against infectious diseases. 

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us how vulnerable we are to infectious diseases. It showed the importance of collaboration between experts from different sectors, the availability of a regulatory structure and accessible facilities to produce and test vaccines and therapeutics. Recognizing the potential emergence of new pandemic threats, the Dutch government has allocated funds to establish national infrastructure for pandemic preparedness. This initiative was facilitated through a ZonMw call for proposals, aimed at establishing effective measures to address and mitigate the impact of future pandemics.  

Granted proposal

In response to this call, experts in infectious diseases from four prominent Dutch university medical centers — Leiden University Medical Center, Amsterdam UMC, Radboudumc, and UMC Utrecht — joined forces to submit a proposal, which received approval from ZonMw. Dimitri Diavatopoulos and Benjamin Mordmuller of Radboudumc are involved. The consortium is supported by CHDR, an internationally renowned early-phase clinical research organization. Ingrid de Visser-Kamerling, Associate Research Director Infectious Diseases at CHDR, explains that CHDR is happy to share its over 35 years of experience in early-phase clinical drug research with the consortium. The vision of the consortium is to establish a national network and dedicated infrastructure for pandemic preparedness for infectious diseases.

In addition to a clinical research facility, a platform will be established to exchange experience and knowledge and stimulate collaboration between the university medical centers and other public and private parties. The initial step involves a feasibility study to assess timelines, costs and technical aspects of the proposal, conducted by an independent organization. A positive outcome of this phase will lead to the foundation of the organization, followed by establishment of the platform and building of infrastructure.

A platform function

The consortium will focus on accelerating the development of preventive and therapeutic products with global and potential pandemic impact. By providing facilities and scientific and regulatory guidance for early-phase development, including controlled human infection clinical trials, the consortium aims to accelerate product identification and development. Professor Meta Roestenberg, the coordinator of the consortium, emphasizes the power of controlled human infection studies in quickly assessing vaccine potential and the unique experience that lies within this Dutch academic network. “Putting our collective knowledge and experience together will enable us to make a much bigger impact, not only in the field of pandemic preparedness but also in global health.”  

Evolving into a collaborative hub

The Centre for Future Affordable Sustainable Therapy Development (FAST) is a partner of the consortium and will facilitate establishing a national collaborative hub for infectious diseases. "There is a clear need in the Netherlands to join forces in the field of pandemic preparedness and infectious diseases. FAST recognizes the development as a crucial step and is eager to contribute to the further establishment of this platform,” Saco de Visser, Science Director of FAST.

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Pauline Dekhuijzen

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