January 30, 2020

U of L becoming first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research

Dr. Julio Ramirez in the Infectious Disease lab.

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Pfizer Inc. announced they are collaborating on epidemiological research Jan. 23. The research will be related to vaccine-preventable diseases affecting adults, including the elderly.

“U of L’s Division of Infectious Diseases has a rich history of collaboration with Pfizer through the successful implementation of numerous clinical epidemiological research studies,” said Julio Ramirez, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at U of L. “We are excited to formalize a long-term collaboration that builds on these past successes.”

U of L is the first Center of Excellence designated by Pfizer Vaccines for this type of research. Ramirez will direct this Center for Excellence in collaboration with the pharmaceutical corporation.

As collaborators, they are aiming to determine the human health burden of important infectious diseases and potential vaccine effectiveness.

National health officials and independent policy makers will use the data collected from this research to develop recommendations for the use of vaccines in immunization programs worldwide.

This collaboration will last for a three-year period with an option for a renewal at the end of that period. Pfizer said they selected U of L for their exceptional capabilities for conducting population-based surveillance and clinical research.

“Pfizer has had an outstanding working relationship with the University of Louisville for more than 10 years,” said Luis Jodar, chief medical and scientific affairs officer for Pfizer Vaccines.

“The quality of disease burden evidence varies widely worldwide. Deriving accurate and credible population-based incidence estimates require comprehensive surveillance to identify cases of diseases within a well-defined and well-characterized geographic area. Thanks to U of L’s excellent network of research partners, the population available for research studies in Louisville can provide the data to derive estimates of disease burden that can be generalized nationally,” Joder said.

Because of Louisville’s racial and ethnic make-up, socioeconomic status and proportion of rural and urban population being similar to the general U.S., the city was an ideal place for this center.

The research conducted at the center may lead to economic growth and development for Louisville, along with job and educational opportunities in the healthcare sector.

“This collaboration will provide increased visibility for the university on a global scale, making U of L attractive for high-caliber researchers and research grants,” said President Neeli Bendapudi. ”It also presents an exceptional opportunity for our researchers to improve the human condition by helping to reduce the burden of infectious diseases worldwide by generating data that will inform governments and health care policymakers.”

Studies for this research will be population-based surveillance of infectious diseases including:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria which causes pneumonia and other infections.
  • Clostridioides difficile, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and colitis.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus associated with mild cold-like symptoms but can cause severe infection in some people, including older adults.

Studies for this research will take place in hospitals, long-term care facilities and the local community.

“Within the next five years, what I hope, is we’ll be able to look back and say ‘This relationship was an amazing opportunity for Louisville, for Kentucky, for our university and for the U.S.,'” said Ruth Carrico, family nurse practitioner-Division of Infectious Diseases.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *