Fred Hutch begins experimental COVID-19 vaccine efficacy trial

Phase 3 study will determine the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine candidate
Dr. Julie McElrath working in the lab

SEATTLE — Nov. 9, 2020 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is starting volunteer enrollment for a COVID-19 vaccine trial. The phase 3 study will examine whether AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 vaccine can protect against COVID-19 and also prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease.

The AZD1222 vaccine study will be conducted by the Vaccine Trials Unit (VTU), a program of Fred Hutch. Visits will occur at Fred Hutch’s main campus and a satellite location in Federal Way. The VTU hopes to enroll 500 volunteers who are at risk for COVID-19 and may be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several ways participants 18 and older can enroll at the Fred Hutch site:

Participants will:

  • Commit to coming into one of the research sites for nine or more visits over one to two years, receiving two injections of the trial vaccine or placebo, and having several blood draws to measure immune response.
  • Keep track of how they’re feeling following each injection. The study staff will also be in contact with each participant.
  • Be aware that the study will be double blind and randomized with two of three participants receiving the trial vaccine and one of three participants receiving a placebo (saltwater).
  • Receive compensation for their time and travel.

“Finding an effective vaccine to safely protect the world from COVID-19 is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our generation,” said Dr. Julie McElrath, senior vice president and director of Fred Hutch’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division. “By combining the clinical research expertise and resources of Fred Hutch and the commitment from diverse populations in Seattle and neighboring areas, we are optimistic that together, we can make a critical contribution to finding a COVID-19 vaccine.” McElrath, who also holds the Joel D. Meyers Endowed Chair, will be the principal investigator of the Fred Hutch site.

The trial is part of the National Institutes of Health’s newly established COVID-19 Prevention Network, formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to respond to the global pandemic and enroll thousands of volunteers to conduct Phase 3 efficacy trials for COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The network is a part of “Operation Warp Speed,” a partnership led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invest in and coordinate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

The United Kingdom-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is leading the trial as regulatory sponsor. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, are providing funding support for the trial.

Fred Hutch researchers are playing a leading role in the international scientific response to the pandemic — tracking the virus's global spread, developing diagnostic tests and monoclonal antibodies that neutralize the virus, designing and evaluating COVID-19 vaccines in early and late-phase clinical trials, and working to better understand how the human immune system can provide durable protection and prevent future outbreaks. For more information, visit Fred Hutch’s Coronavirus Overview.


About Fred Hutch

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.


Claire Hudson