September 20, 2020
HJF serves as a key partner to the Infectious Diseases Directorate (IDD) at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HJF is supporting the Directorate and its research on countermeasures to treat and/or prevent COVID-19 in active duty military populations.
For more than a decade, HJF has supported the Naval Medical Research Center in preclinical and clinical scientific research aimed at developing preventative modalities, such as vaccines and other countermeasures against naturally occurring infectious agents and emerging diseases. The research has primarily focused on four areas: enteric diseases, malaria, viral and rickettsial diseases, and wound infections.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a new research focus. COVID-19 diagnostics are now being performed in the Navy Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Lab. In addition, COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics development efforts are being performed in the Viral and Rickettsial Diseases Department in partnership with the IDD Office of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Force Health Protection.
For these efforts, HJF provided critical surge support staff to the Navy Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Lab. New Navy COVID-19 cohort field studies were also initiated to better meet Navy Medicine’s mission by providing COVID-19 clinical, diagnostic and epidemiological data to better inform Navy and Marine Corps leadership in best practices to effectively protect active duty personnel.
To research countermeasures to treat or prevent COVID-19 in the active duty Navy population, HJF is engaged with two other partners: Ichor Medical Systems Inc. and Wake Forest University Health Sciences. Ichor Medical Systems works with the U.S. government on DNA-based antibody delivery. Its TriGrid ® Delivery System is being used for delivery of a DNA vaccine targeting the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 into non-human primates as part of a prime-boost vaccination strategy developed by the Directorate. This SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is also being compared to a novel psoralen-inactivated whole virus COVID-19 vaccine under development by NMRC and HJF investigators.
To develop and evaluate rapid vaccine development platforms and immunotherapeutics that target other infectious diseases agents of military importance, HJF is will continue to collaborate with Dr. John Sanders, an infectious disease specialist at Wake Forest University Health Sciences. As part of this effort, research will focus on other psoralen-inactivated vaccines as well as polycloncal antibodies for passive immunization and treatment.