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VIGH, partners get training grant to create vaccine-related research in Peru

Jul. 13, 2023, 2:03 PM


by Kristin Centers

In partnership with the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) and the Instituto de Investigacion Nutricional (IIN), the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) has received $1.2 million for a five-year training grant funded by the Fogarty International Center to establish the Peru-Vanderbilt Prevention through Vaccination Training (PREVENT) program.

The PREVENT program trains researchers and scientists to conduct multidisciplinary vaccine-preventable diseases research, builds training capacity, and encourages U.S.-based researchers to engage in vaccine and vaccination-related research in Peru.

The multi-principal investigator structure offers trainees extensive mentorship and learning opportunities. Carlos Grijalva, MD, MPH, professor in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology within the departments of Health Policy and Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Theresa Ochoa, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Tropical Medicine at UPCH and Claudio Lanata, MD, MPH, director and senior researcher at IIN and adjunct professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt, will serve as the leadership team.

“Vanderbilt has a long history of excellence in research in vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Our group has been working collaboratively with both institutions in Peru. This new program is the natural pathway to solidify ongoing collaborations with these exceptional research groups,” said Grijalva.

“PREVENT is an excellent opportunity to consolidate our long-lasting collaborations with Vanderbilt University and the Instituto de Investigacion Nutricional (IIN). Our PREVENT team is uniquely equipped to develop and answer questions that are critically important to pediatrics and infectious diseases worldwide and to train future Peruvian leaders in vaccine preventable diseases,” added Ochoa.

This new project brings attention to Vanderbilt’s 20-year engagement in Peru. In December 2022, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine signed an official memorandum of understanding with UPCH in Lima, Peru, to continue facilitating bilateral exchange in research, training and fieldwork. Ongoing research includes tackling global health issues, such as the burden of vaccine-preventable disease in Peru, especially among those at high risk for disease and complications, including young children and older adults.

The program will support 10 trainees, including master’s, doctoral and faculty fellows, through specialized training in Peru and complementary training at Vanderbilt, emphasizing advanced research methods, implementation science, evaluations of vaccination programs, scientific and grant writing and hands-on advanced analytical training. Leigh Howard, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics and VIGH member, will serve as program director for this new program.

Each PREVENT trainee will compose an individualized training plan guided by an interdisciplinary research committee. The didactic components and other training activities provided to PREVENT trainees will leverage existing resources, including the UPCH master and doctoral programs, the Vanderbilt MPH and doctoral programs and structured VUMC career development resources.

Working with Peruvian colleagues since 2008, Grijalva has conducted prospective cohort studies of acute respiratory diseases among Peruvian children and families to examine the activity and interactions of common respiratory viruses and colonizing bacteria including studies evaluating the transmission of viruses and bacteria in households in Lima.

The IIN has been conducting vaccine studies and field trials in several peri-urban areas of Lima and other cities in Peru since 1984. Studies led by the IIN have varied in size ranging from few hundred subjects to 12,050 2-month-old infants enrolled in a large multicenter rotavirus vaccine trial, to 92,000 subjects that participated in an oral cholera vaccine trial in the south of Peru. PREVENT will allow junior scientists to learn from this extensive field experience and to contribute to strengthening the research capacity in Peru,” said Lanata.

UPCH is recognized as a preeminent institution of biomedical science in Peru and a practicum site for the Global Health track of Vanderbilt’s Master of Public Health program. It has three research institutes, including the Instituto de Medicina Tropical “Alexander von Humboldt,” an academic center specializing in preventing and managing infectious diseases. IMTAvH has the physical capacity for high-level laboratory, clinical and translational, and epidemiologic research to address country- and region-specific knowledge gaps and health needs.

The Instituto de Investigacion Nutricional is a private, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research, teaching, training and services in health and nutrition. It specializes in longitudinal research studies, especially large randomized and non-randomized studies. It has a well-established track record of successful execution of prospective studies that have evaluated the safety, immunogenicity and protective efficacy of many vaccine candidates, including formulations against rotavirus, cholera, papillomavirus, influenza, dengue, pediatric pentavalent and hexavalent vaccines, norovirus and SARS-CoV-2, among others.

PREVENT is funded by the NIH/Fogarty International Center (D43TW012468).

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