When COVID-19 first made landfall in the U.S. last year, it made its grand entrance in Snohomish County, Washington, and eventually turned Seattle into the country’s “coronavirus capital” for some months. So, in a way, it’s only fitting that the institution at the center of the vaccine development campaign to end the pandemic is based in Seattle, as well.
On the face of it, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center may sound like an unlikely candidate to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. But “Fred Hutch” or “the Hutch” as it’s known, was actually an obvious choice, after having worked for more than 20 years on a vaccine to end another pandemic: HIV/AIDS.
Fred Hutch was founded in 1975 as a center dedicated to studying cancer – and that work continues. But it soon became renowned for its work on other diseases, too, especially HIV (which also causes a type of cancer called Kaposi sarcoma).
It was through HIV research that the center’s former president and director, Dr. Larry Corey, became friends and colleagues with Dr. Anthony Fauci in the 1980s. In fact, it was Fauci who encouraged Corey in 1998 to co-found what became the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), the world’s largest publicly funded international collaboration conducting clinical trials of HIV vaccines. The HVTN is headquartered at Fred Hutch and supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is headed by Fauci.
So, when COVID-19 hit, it was no surprise that Fauci tapped Corey, along with the global network and expertise of Fred Hutch and the HVTN, to coordinate vaccine trials through a newly-formed clinical trials network: the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). The plan was to “harmonize” trials of various vaccines so they could be compared to each other by asking a common set of questions, setting a common set of goals, and measuring success with a common set of tests, carried out by independent laboratories. And it needed to be done as quickly as possible.
Read the full article about Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.