BUTTE — Mercury Street Medical Clinical Research and St. James Healthcare are partnering in a clinical trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford known as AZD1222.

On Nov. 9, volunteers collected from southwestern Montana were the first in the state to receive an experimental vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca. The trial is in phase 3, the final stage of human testing prior to regulatory approval, production and mass distribution.

Mercury Street Medical Clinical Research will be conducting the trial, while the Laboratory at St. James will be processing the COVID-19 tests of those who participate in the study. The AstraZeneca study is being led by John Pullman, MD, FACP, David Chamberlain, MD, and Erin Williams-Leber, PA-C of Mercury Street Medical. 

While the St. James team is led by Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Davenport, MD along with Laboratory Directors Maria Brown, MT(ASCP) and Mary Ann Jones, MT(ASCP). The program is part of the national COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), which was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to help lead the scientific response to the pandemic. NIAID is headed by Anthony Fauci, M.D.

"St. James has a history of partnering with our local healthcare providers and during times like this we all need to work together for the sake of our community", said Davenport, Chief Medical Officer at St. James Healthcare. "The vaccine trial is just part of the overall plan to help control the COVID-19 virus. I know Dr. Pullman and his staff at Mercury Street Medical will do their very best to conduct the trial safely."

The vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford uses a harmless adenovirus that contains the genetic material of the COVID-19 spike protein. The vaccine stimulates the production of the surface spike protein, which primes the immune system to recognize the virus if infected.

Phase 1/2 studies conducted in the U.K. —  the results of which were reported on July 20 in the journal Lancet – found that the vaccine was not only safe but generated an immune response to the virus.

Whether or not the vaccine provides protection from coronavirus infection across a wide range of age groups and medical conditions are questions that the phase 3 study will now seek to answer. In addition to the U.S., phase 3 studies of the vaccine are also underway in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa.

The AstraZeneca trial is funded by NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The trial is being implemented as part of the Operation Warp Speed, a multi-agency collaboration led by HHS that aims to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of medical countermeasures for COVID-19.

Individuals interested in volunteering for the study can visit https://www.c19vaccinestudy.com/ or call (406) 723-1375.


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