Health

International biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has picked the University of Louisville to be its first site in a global epidemiology research network.

Pfizer Inc.’s Centers of Excellence Network wants to eventually create a global system of academic institutions to research the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases and how vaccines affect adults. Researchers from the U of L division of infectious diseases will partner with Pfizer for studies which include analyzing the bacteria that cause colitis, diarrhea and pneumonia. U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said she expects the research’s benefits to be far-reaching.  

“So the research that’s conducted in our city will assist Pfizer in the development of vaccines that are needed to improve the health of individuals, clearly, throughout the United States,” Bendapudi said. “But the insights that are created will go well beyond our country to improve the knowledge about how these diseases emerge, evolve and change all over the world.”

Bendapudi added that the partnership could also help boost Louisville’s economy, and bring more research grants and status to the university.

tubes inside a lab at the University of Louisville's Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research BuildingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

tubes inside a lab at the University of Louisville’s Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research Building

Thursday’s announcement comes amid reports of lower vaccination rates in some Kentucky communities, and a 2019 Gallup poll found a concerning number of people do not believe vaccines are safe. Dr. Ruth Carrico, a professor in the U of L Division of Infectious Diseases, said her department hears concerns about the safety of vaccines but they’re necessary

“New infections are going to emerge continuously … we always are in this never-ending, billion-year struggle,” Carrico said. “As humans, our job is to figure out how we protect the human race. And we are doing that by looking at disease prevention.”

Pfizer said it chose the university in part because Jefferson County’s demographics, including factors like race and socioeconomic status, closely reflect the United States.The Centers for Excellence agreement will last three years with a chance for Pfizer to renew it. Carrico said Pfizer will provide $11 million in grants for the first year of research, with more funding possible. and more grant funds could come. Pfizer plans to name another center in the first half of 2020.