COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Moderna to be tested in Chicago in UIC Hospital phase 3 trial

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A phase 3 clinical study to test a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from biotech company Moderna will be coming to Chicago.

The vaccine candidate will be tested at University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital. The hospital said the study is expected to launch on July 9.

ABC7 spoke with Dr. Richard Novak, who will lead Chicago's first clinical trial for the vaccine.

"I'm both excited and stressed because this is a huge undertaking. It's a very large study, and it's growing very quickly," Dr. Novak said. "I think it is great Chicago is being included in the research, it should be. We've been a major epicenter of this pandemic."

EMBED More News Videos

A phase 3 clinical study to test a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from biotech company Moderna will be coming to Chicago.



UIC is the only site in Chicago selected for the trial study, which the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases is administering.

"One of the reasons that we may have been included is because, well because of our experience with doing these studies and because... we've been successful in enrolling people of color and minorities," Dr. Novak said.

The Moderna vaccine candidate is RNA-based and aims to produce antibodies to protect against COVID-19.
"RNA vaccines represent a new class of vaccines that researchers hope will be more effective than other types," Novak said. "The application of this type of innovation to COVID-19 is exciting, although the need for a vaccine of any type against COVID-19 is a pressing and urgent public health necessity."

Up to 30,000 individuals will be enrolled in the trial and about 1,000 will initially be enrolled through UIC. Forty percent of the trial participants will be 65 years and older.

"The study really is aimed at people who are likely to get clinically ill if they get COVID-19," Dr. Novak said. "So it's going to aim at people over the age of 65, and people with some underlying chronic illness like high blood pressure, diabetes, because they're particularly at risk of getting sick if they contract the illness."

The trial involves two doses of the vaccine and is placebo-controlled, meaning half the people in the study will get the vaccine and the other half will get a placebo. The study will follow people for two years to see how long the vaccine may be effective.

"Right now we're taking names of people who are interested," Dr. Novak said. "We'll take their names now and then later we will contact them and evaluate whether or not they qualify for the study based on those restrictions for enrollment."

Novak said UIC has to rapidly hire more staffers and that this is the largest study he has been a part of. If the vaccine proves to be effective, this would be the last trial phase before rapid production and distribution of the vaccine.

Anyone wishing to volunteer to participate in the vaccine trial can contact UIC researchers at 312-413-5897 or email ProjectWishDOM@uic.edu.

While UIC is the first to announce clinical trials for a CoVID-19 vaccine, three other Chicago area hospitals are likely to begin trials for vaccines developed by other companies.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of them. Dr. Babafemi Taiwo said clinical trials are expected to begin in August. COVID vaccines are being fast tracked in what the Trump administration is calling Operation Warp Speed.

Taiwo said the unprecedented speed of development has no impact on safety.

"You want to design it so it's safe , you put the best scientific information on paper and try to advance to human beings that part is very rigorous "

Dr. Taiwo said bureaucracy is why vaccines take long to develop. For COVID-19, he said red tape, not safety, is being sacrificed.

But, Dr. Taiwo said the timing will depend on how prevalent the disease is while conducting the trials.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.