The Vaccine Research Unit has a long history designing and enrolling thousands of participants in cutting edge clinical trials.  Since 2003, the unit has participated in a number of different National Institutes of Health trials evaluating vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and devices that target many biological agents. The University of Iowa received designation as one the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEU) in  2007 with a $23.7 million contract from a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The contract was renewed in 2013 with the potential for $135 million per year over 7 to 10 years. As part of the contract, the University of Iowa Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit conducted clinical trials of promising vaccines and therapies for many different infectious diseases. The works closely with the NIH funded Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers as a subcontract site to Duke University. The collaborative is focused on developing more durable and broadly protective influenza vaccines. The unit also has a wealth of experience working with industry. 

The Vaccine Research Unit is run by the Principal investigator Patricia Winokur M.D. who is the Director for Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Iowa in addition to being Professor of Internal Medicine and Executive Dean of the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Dr. Winokur is an experienced infectious disease specialist as well as an accomplished researcher. A number of other talented infectious diseases faculty at the University of Iowa and faculty from different specialties have also served as principal investigators for various trials being performed by the Vaccine Research Unit, including Jack Stapleton, MD, Dilek Ince, MD, Jeffery Meier, MD, and Lukasz Weiner, MD. Collectively, these faculty bring tremendous expertise in many pathogens ranging from viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus to cytomegalovirus, and herpes viruses, a number of major bacterial pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus, parasites and helminths. The unit is experienced in enrolling normal healthy individuals from all ages including infants and children on up to individuals over the age of 65, as well as individuals with a number of medical conditions that include transplant recipients. 

The Vaccine Research Unit continues to conduct clinical trials on traditional flu vaccines that are developed each year as well as flu vaccines that include new adjuvants— agents that enhance the body’s immune system response. In addition to traditional flu vaccines, the unit studies vaccines related to emerging public health issues, notably COVID-19. Dr. Winokur states, “The ability to develop and test vaccines in response to emerging diseases or biological agents is always important…”, adding that this was a key component to the consortium with NIH. 

The University of Iowa has maintained the success of its Vaccine Research Unit due to its strong track record of enrolling clinical study participants and obtaining reliable, high-quality data. In addition, the support of Iowans who take part in trials is remarkable. Dr. Winokur acknowledges, "The individuals who volunteer for these types of studies are the backbone of our entire clinical trials program and they make Iowa an amazingly successful place to do this type of work.” Jack Stapleton M.D., associate director of the Vaccine Research Unit, adds “The Iowans who volunteer are such wonderful Midwestern people. They show up for all of their appointments, which means we have superb retention and follow-through with our patients. For research, this is very important."


The ability to develop and test vaccines in response to emerging diseases or biochemical agents is always important.

Patricia Winokur, M.D., Principal Investigator

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