Page 26 - RU RWJ Medicine Magazine • Winter 2021
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Jeffrey Carson, MD
appears to work, then a larger clinical trial will be conducted to show the effectiveness of the treatment,” he said.
Dr. Carson also is the principal site investigator for ENSEMBLE, the vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Johnson & Johnson’s Jansen Pharma- ceuticals, Inc. Participants from the two cohort studies deemed at greatest risk of developing COVID in the future were invited to join in the vaccine trial, which enrolled 840 people at the medical school site. Rutgers has recruited the second highest number of participants internationally.
The trial was submitted for emergency use authorization at the end of January, and approved in March.
All three clinician-scientists agreed that participation in vaccine trials was crucial to returning to a more normal life.
“This virus is highly transmissible and a lethal disease, and there is no immunity, which is why we need a vaccine,” explained Dr. Blaser. “People want to participate to help human kind, but they are also helping them- selves.”
It was the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) granted to Dr. Panettieri in 2019 that supported the vast amount of effort to complete the cohort studies.
“The NJ ACTS hub at Rutgers, supported by the CTSA, provided the infrastructure to move the protocols forward and overcome the pragmatic and logistical challenges,” Dr. Panettieri explained. “We mobilized at one time 32 research coordinators because of the CTSA hub, and now the scope of the original project is blossoming as we look into mechanistic approaches and extending our ability to test vulnerable populations.”
The Rutgers Corona Cohort has led to three supplemental grant awards to NJ ACTS, including $1.6 million to Dr. Blaser for a longitudi- nal study of the original cohort to determine long-term risk and suscepti- bility and record the potential consequences of infection. The largest supplemental grant awarded was for $5 million from the NIH to launch outreach campaigns and expand access to COVID-19 testing for under-
served and vulnerable communities in New Jersey. Shawna Hudson, PhD, profes- sor of family medicine and community health, and director of the Center Advanc- ing Research and Evaluation for Patient- Centered Care (CARE-PC), is lead principal investigator for the study.
The grant will fund the New Jersey Healthcare Essential WoRker Outreach and Education Study–Testing Overlooked Occupations, or NJ HEROES TOO, under the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnos- tics (RADx) initiative, RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program. NJ HEROES TOO focuses on the Black and Latinx communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as discovered in the hospital cohort study. The program sup- ports research that aims to better under- stand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved communities; strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression and outcomes; and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing.
“The health care workers found at highest risk in the cohort studies may bring infections home and live within multigener- ational families,” explained Dr. Panettieri.
University-wide there
are seven research interest groups working on various aspects of COVID-19 investigations. Arnold Rabson, MD, director, Child Health Institute of New Jersey and Laura Gallagher Endowed Chair of Developmental Biology and Professor of Pediatrics, Pharmacology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, co-leads the working group on coron- avirus biology, while Child Health Institute researchers Lisa Denzin, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, and Derek Sant’Angelo, PhD, Harold L. Paz, MD, Professor in Developmental Biology, professor of pediatrics, are members of the working group on vaccines.
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