New testing centre researches potential vaccines and medicines against infectious diseases
On 27 September Johan Hanssens, Secretary-General of the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI), opened the Clinical Trial Centre (CTC), a brand new research complex of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp. In the Clinical Trial Centre, the institute tests out new vaccines, medication and treatments against infectious diseases before they can be put to use.
“Because of COVID-19, we realise how immense the impact of infectious diseases can be on global public health. We are therefore proud that, thanks to Flemish support, we have a new centre that uses scientific research to arm ourselves against such diseases,” said Jo Brouns, Flemish minister of Economy, Science and Innovation.
Clinical studies in the fight against diseases and potential outbreaks
New medicines and vaccines cannot be used just like that. First, thorough tests are needed to determine whether the treatments are safe and effective. Only after going through several stages of testing, new drugs and vaccines can be widely used.
“The mission of our institute is to use science to improve health in low- and middle-income countries, and to contribute to global health. In our new centre, we research vaccines and medicines against infectious diseases here in Belgium but with relevance for low- and middle-income countries. The word ‘tropical’ in ‘tropical diseases’ means increasingly less, since diseases cannot be boxed in, especially with globalisation and climate change. The research at our CTC thus benefits both Belgium and the world,” says Marc-Alain Widdowson, director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine.
At the CTC, ITM evaluates the effectiveness and safety of drugs, vaccines or treatments in healthy volunteers or patients. Participants can apply without obligation and, if they meet the conditions, participate in the studies.
Collaboration with other research centres and pharma
For several years, the Institute of Tropical Medicine has been involved in clinical studies with academic partners (e.g. UAntwerpen, UGent, ULB Erasme) or with partners from the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. Johnson & Johnson). Thanks to the CTC, the institute can expand these collaborations.
Pierre Van Damme, vaccinologist at UAntwerpen and head of Vaccinopolis, also sees the benefits of collaboration: “Together with Vaccinopolis, the CTC confirms Flanders' position as an important player in clinical research. Both centres complement each other and allow scientific collaboration in clinical trials with vaccines.”
Interested people can register as candidates. When new studies are launched, these candidates may be contacted to participate. Applications can be made through the website of the Institute of Tropical Medicine.
Investment through the Flemish Recovery Plan
The CTC was co-financed by the Flemish Resilience, the Recovery Plan established by the Flemish government in the wake of the corona pandemic to restore the economic and social fabric in Flanders. The construction and equipment of the CTC cost about 550 000 Euros.
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