Preparing for the fight: Vanderbilt Vaccine Center’s efforts to find a COVID-19 treatment
By Ben Fowler (G2, Crowe Lab)
Across the world, scientists and physicians have been called to the front lines of the fight against the pandemic novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. Here at Vanderbilt, the Crowe Laboratory, part of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, is working around-the-clock to rapidly develop SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that might be deployed as prophylactic or therapeutic drugs to slow and contain the COVID-19 pandemic and guide vaccine development. As part of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3), a team of staff scientists, post-docs, research assistants, lab managers, administrators, and collaborators have already identified thousands of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from COVID-19 survivors. The team is now working to identify the most functional human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from this massive panel by testing binding to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as well as working with collaborators at institutions with BSL-3 facilities who can test virus neutralization by these mAbs. Once highly effective mAbs are identified, the Crowe Laboratory has multiple industry partners who will further test, manufacture, and conduct clinical trials of these potentially therapeutic mAbs. You can read more about this effort in the VUMC Reporter. Although still underway, this and other scientific efforts around SARS-CoV-2 are undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive and rapid reactions to a human health threat ever. The collective response of the biomedical community to the pandemic is an inspiring example of scientists and healthcare providers stepping up when needed most, and highlights the critical roles physician-scientists can play by deftly interfacing the realities of the hospital with the intricacies of basic and translational research.