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RTI Essential Part of Initiative for Accelerating Research on Possible COVID-19 Treatments

RTI experts will coordinate the development and support independent oversight of clinical trials conducted within NHLBI-led initiative


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, on Wednesday announced that it has been selected to collaborate in an initiative setting out to understand the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and identify therapies that will slow or halt the disease progression and speed recovery. Referred to as Collaborating Network of Networks for Evaluating COVID-19 and Therapeutic Strategies, or CONNECTS, the initiative is being led by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Specifically, RTI, under the direction of principal investigator Sonia Thomas, DrPH, and alternate principal investigator Tracy Nolen, DrPH, will serve as the Administrative Coordinating Center (ACC) for CONNECTS, which will ensure harmonized, efficient and effective operation of the initiative.

The RTI team primarily comprises individuals from the institute’s Biostatistics and Epidemiology Division Clinical Research Network Center with contributions from other researchers across the institute. Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is a subcontract to RTI as the ACC’s Science Unit and will be led by Gordon Bernard, M.D.

“We are honored that our experienced team can contribute to this incredibly important effort to find effective treatments for COVID-19,” said Dr. Thomas. “This is a situation that requires unprecedented speed and collaboration, and one of the challenges of an effort this large is simply the coordination of the research. We look forward to doing our part to ensure that the clinical trials conducted as part of CONNECTS are done rapidly and efficiently.”

The interventions tested in CONNECTS clinical trials will focus on host-targeted treatments, which seek to limit damage to the body from the viral infection. Clinical trials usually test one intervention at a time within a single network of clinical trial sites. CONNECTS provides the opportunity to conduct adaptive trials across multiple networks. Researchers across these sites can test a variety of interventions simultaneously, sharing data and identifying the most promising treatments more quickly.

As the ACC, RTI and VUMC will coordinate the development and implementation of master protocols focused on host-directed interventions relevant to the heart, lung, blood and cardiovascular dimensions of COVID-19 across the range of COVID-19 populations. The ACC will also provide logistics and administrative support as part of a network of networks approach and support independent oversight of trial progress and other studies related to addressing COVID-19.

CONNECTS is integrated with other NIH initiatives, including Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) and NHLBI Biodata Catalyst data, and is being conducted in collaboration with other federal efforts, including those of the Food and Drug Administration, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Operation Warp Speed.

For more information, visit: https://nhlbi-connects.org/.