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GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the GW MFA Serve as one of 24 participating trial sites for the NIAID’s COVAIL Trial

Clinical Trial to evaluate a second COVID-19 booster shot in adults that includes multiple variant vaccines

WASHINGTON (April 8, 2022) — The GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences has been selected to serve as one of 24 participating sites for the Phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate additional COVID-19 booster shots in adults, including multiple vaccines based on viral variants such as Delta and Omicron. The trial aims to understand if different vaccine regimens – prototype and variant vaccines alone and in combinations – can broaden immune responses in adults who already have received a primary vaccination series and a first booster shot. The study, known as the COVID-19 Variant Immunologic Landscape (COVAIL) trial, is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences has received funding support as an agreement under NIH contract number 75N91019D00024 to Leidos Biomedical Research in Frederick, Maryland.

Despite waning protection against infection and mild illness during the Omicron wave, COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States so far have maintained durable protection against severe COVID-19. 

Researchers at GW, led by David Diemert, MD, professor of Medicine and of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and a physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), will conduct the clinical trial to help prepare for the possibility of future variants evading protection against currently available COVID-19 vaccines.

“As we continue to face new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the science continues to evolve and we are working to be able to continue to provide people with safe and effective vaccines,” said Diemert, who is the principal investigator of the clinical trial at GW. “We are proud to play a role in the network of researchers working to reduce the impact of this deadly disease.”

COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers can adjust prototype vaccines to target specific variants, a process similar to how manufacturers update seasonal influenza vaccines every year to target circulating strains. However, predicting if, when and where new COVID-19 variants will emerge and how they will affect the population, remains challenging. Studies indicate that Omicron has a combination of mutations that make it substantially different from prior SARS-CoV-2 variants. Should a new variant emerge that more closely resembles ancestral SARS-CoV-2 or, for example, the Delta variant, an Omicron-specific vaccine may not offer substantial protection. An individual’s response to booster shots may also be impacted by their history of prior infection and vaccination, or both, and what type of COVID-19 vaccines they have already received. 

Vaccine manufacturers have previously studied some variant vaccine candidates and are currently conducting clinical trials of Omicron-specific vaccines. The COVAIL trial will gather data on the immune responses induced by prototype vaccines and variant vaccine candidates—including bivalent vaccines, which target two SARS-CoV-2 variants—to inform booster shot recommendations. 

Site investigators at 24 clinics are initially enrolling 600 participants 18 years and older who already have received a primary COVID-19 vaccination series and booster shot. Participants are randomly assigned to one of six vaccine regimens:

  • One 50-microgram (mcg) injection of the mRNA-1273 (Spikevax) prototype vaccine, which is the same vaccine currently authorized in the United States as a booster shot for adults
  • One 50-mcg injection consisting of mRNA-1273.351 (an investigational vaccine targeting the Beta variant) and mRNA-1273.529 (an investigational vaccine targeting the Omicron variant)
  • Two vaccinations administered two months apart: each vaccination is one 50-mcg injection containing both mRNA-1273.351 and mRNA-1273.529
  • One 50-mcg injection consisting of mRNA-1273.617.2 (an investigational vaccine targeting the Delta variant) and mRNA-1273.529
  • One 50-mcg injection of mRNA-1273.529
  • One 50-mcg injection consisting of mRNA-1273 (Spikevax) and mRNA-1273.529

The study vaccines included in this first stage of the trial are manufactured by Moderna, Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The trial will be adapted to enroll more participants to evaluate additional vaccine platforms and variant vaccines from other manufacturers as needed to further inform public health decisions. Participants will be monitored for symptoms and adverse events following vaccination and will be asked to return to the clinic during set times over the course of 12-14 months to provide blood samples. Investigators will evaluate the samples in the laboratory to measure and characterize immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 strains. Investigators aim to have initial findings available by August 2022.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with academic medical centers across the U.S. including GW, NIAID’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC) and the NIAID SARS-CoV-2 Assessment of Viral Evolution (SAVE) Program

For more information about the trial, including specific site locations, and for details on how to participate, please visit clinicaltrials.gov and search identifier NCT05289037

GW School of Medicine and Health Science is recruiting volunteers who have been both vaccinated and boosted (with Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J vaccines) for a #COVID19 booster & variant-specific vaccine clinical trial. Visit redcap.link/gw_covail for more information.

NIAID’s press release about thie trial can be found here: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/nih-begins-clinical-trial-evaluating-second-covid-19-booster-shots-adults