IDCRC VTEU PI Profile: Robert W. Frenck, Jr., MD


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU);
Serves on the IDCRC Enteric Infections Expert Working Group

Dr. Frenck's research interests include therapeutic and vaccine clinical trials with special interest in enteric diseases and human challenge infection models. After completing a 25-year career in the Navy, Dr. Frenck joined the UCLA Center for Vaccine Research in 2004 and served until 2006 as director of the center and a professor of pediatrics at UCLA School of Medicine. Dr. Frenck has been active in the American Academy of Pediatrics and is the incoming chair for the Section on Infectious Diseases as well as serving on the Red Book Committee. He is an acknowledged authority in infectious diseases and has authored over 150 articles and book chapters on various aspects of this subject.

How long have you been with the VTEU?

I started working with the VTEU in 2004 when I was at Harbor-UCLA. After moving to Cincinnati in 2006, I have been a member of our VTEU team and I became our site PI in 2016.

Briefly describe the IDCRC-supported trials you've recently on/led.

As the IDCRC was initiated just before COVID, the vast majority of my time has been spent on COVID-19 vaccines, specifically the Astra-Zeneca trial, MixNMatch, MOMIVax and KidCove. We currently are in the process of initiating our first non-COVID trial for the IDCRC. This project will evaluate a vaccine against Campylobacter, one of the leading causes of bacterial diarrhea in the world. We also are in the final stages of protocol development of a vaccine against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) that will be headed by my colleagues Drs. David Bernstein and Felicia Scaggs-Huang. Read more about IDCRC studies

Of these trials, what has been the most impactful or highlight of the work?

Obviously, the impact of the various COVID-19 vaccine trials has been to make highly-effective vaccines available across the age spectrum. MixNMatch and MOMIVax have been very interesting and important side projects that have provided critical data on optimizing vaccination as well as gaining a better understanding as to whether maternal immunization can protect babies against COVID until the babies are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.

What is a strength or example of the importance of the IDCRC?

The principal strength of the IDCRC is the network of investigators and sites throughout the country who bring expertise in multiple areas of infectious diseases and conduct of clinical trials. This expertise allows for the rapid development and implementation of protocols to evaluate preventions and treatments of infectious diseases. Additionally, the highly respected research teams at the various IDCRC sites translates to very rapid enrollment and extremely high retention rates of study participants in the various studies. Both are critical for the acquisition of high-quality data, a longstanding hallmark of the VTEUs, and why the VTEUs, and now the IDCRC have been recognized by the NIH as a crown jewel in their clinical trial networks.