Vanderbilt’s Vermund Tapped For Leadership Role in Newly Restructured National HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Networks

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By Carole Bartoo

Sten H. Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., the director of The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and a Pediatric Infectious Disease research epidemiologist at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has been selected as the primary investigator to lead the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) for the newly restructured HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks.

Leadership group awards were announced in six general categories, the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) being one of them. Vermund will guide prevention trials taking place around the world. Awards for the Clinical Trials Units (CTUs), which will carry out the clinical research, are expected to be announced later this year. Total funding for both the network leadership and the CTUs is expected to reach $285 million during the first year of operation.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the principal investigators yesterday as it rolled out NIAID’s newly restructured clinical trials network in the search for safe and effective treatments and prevention strategies, including HIV vaccines.

"With these investigators providing the required leadership, the new clinical trials networks are well poised to help us move the next generation of HIV/AIDS research forward," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The new network structure expands our clinical research capacity and strengthens our ability to take advantage of emerging scientific opportunities. By creating a more integrated, collaborative and flexible structure, we will be better equipped to meet evolving global AIDS research priorities."

David W. Haas, M.D. associate professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Vanderbilt AIDS Clinical Trials Program, said Vermund is well suited for the role. “The AIDS epidemic is arguably the greatest infectious diseases challenge in history. Sten has been a wonderful addition to our Vanderbilt Meharry Center for AIDS Research,” Haas said. “His recent arrival at Vanderbilt highlights the ongoing commitment of our leadership to make sure Vanderbilt continues to be one of the top HIV research centers in the world. Sten’s global perspective and his expertise in non-vaccine HIV prevention complement Vanderbilt’s already outstanding programs in areas that include HIV clinical care, HIV vaccine evaluation and HIV treatment trials.”

As a principal investigator, Vermund will lead a core of operations that will provide administrative and technical support; a statistical and data management center; and a network laboratory structure for the HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks in the area of prevention for projects around the world.

Vermund is the Amos Christie Chair in Global Health and a professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Previously, he was the Chief of the Epidemiology Branch of the AIDS program at the NIAID during the latter part of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He then served as the Chief of the Vaccine Trials and Epidemiology branch of the Division of AIDS at the NIAID. Today, Vermund’s own NIH-funded research projects involve the AIDS epidemic in Africa, India and China.