Merck, ISB, Swedish

COVID-19 Immune Response Study

Merck, ISB and Swedish Medical Center are collaborating in a one-of-a-kind study to follow hundreds of patients who contract COVID-19 to learn why those infected have drastically different outcomes — some die, some recover, and some are asymptomatic.

 
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease has spread globally since late 2019, resulting in the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some patients progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure. The death rate is estimated at between 1% and 5% but varies by age and other health conditions.

Covid-19 infection illustration

Illustration of the process of infection and immune response in patients. Once a patient is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the body begins creating unique protective molecules that can be studied to understand and treat the disease.

Seattle’s scientific and research community understands the urgency of this pandemic. It has embraced collaboration for the greater good, shared research findings to expedite knowledge and the development of therapies and vaccines, and has risen to the mission of using all of its knowledge and tools to better understand, and ultimately overcome, this challenge.

ISB scientists were quick to tap into their research and medical networks to form collaborations to study the disease. In March, Dr. Jim Heath, president of ISB and Dr. Jason Goldman, an infectious disease physician at Swedish were the first to put their heads together to design a study that is now underway. In April, Merck and ISB announced a research collaboration that includes vital funding for the study. Other collaborative partners on the study include Stanford University, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Bloodworks Northwest, Isoplexis, Metabolon, Nanostring, Olink, Providence Molecular Genomics Laboratory, Scisco Genetics and 10x Genomics.

 

“Each of the COVID-19 patients has a unique lesson to teach us about how the medical and scientific community can respond most effectively to this pandemic”

said ISB President Dr. Jim Heath, who is co-leading the study alongside Dr. Jason Goldman, an infectious disease physician at Swedish.

A patient in the Covid-19 study will contribute blood samples at three points throughout their infection — initial presentation, acute illness and convalescence. Each of these samples will be stored in an anonymized biorepository and analzyed to generate multi-omic data.

A patient in the study will contribute blood samples at three points throughout their infection — initial presentation, acute illness and convalescence. Each of these samples will be stored in an anonymized biorepository and analzyed to generate multi-omic data.

 

We aim to identify the best strategy for a protective vaccine, and identify the best strategy for treating patients who are already infected.

The purpose of this study is to create a biorepository of blood samples to investigate the immune response of patients infected with COVID-19. ISB and its partners will test the virus itself, along with how the body fights this virus, to help the development of a vaccine.

We plan to enroll up to 200 recently diagnosed adult patients to take part in this research. A trained phlebotomist or clinical staff will collect patient blood samples and nasal swabs as soon as possible after a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. We will take a second collection of blood 2 – 14 days later. A third collection of blood will happen 28 – 56 days after the first blood draw. All of these samples will contribute to a biorepository to support our aims.

Covid-19 study process illustration

Illustration of the process of discovery. Blood samples provided are analyzed. When the data of many people are analzyed it can lead to new insights and treatments for the disease.

Blood samples will be examined using proteomic, metabolomic, transcriptomics and genetic techniques to evaluate the impact of infection on different organs, and to identify potential biomarkers to predict the risk of severe disease. In addition, samples will be analyzed to create a profile of the immune response, including quantitative changes in immune cells in patients following SARS CoV-2 infection and characterization of neutralizing antibodies in samples from convalescent patients. These insights can be used to inform vaccine design and antibody therapy.

 

Over 35 ISB scientists are working on this study. The project involves collaborations with many other health workers within Swedish Medical System and Providence St. Joseph Health. 

A Digital Platform for the COVID-19 Immune Response Study

In a multi-institutional study of a highly infectious disease like COVID-19, paperless consent for study participants is critical. One component of the COVID-19 Immune Response Study is a recruitment website with an IRB-approved and HIPAA-compliant electronic consent platform for enrolling patients

Read more

Our Research Partners

Research collaborators on the study include Merck, Stanford University, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Bloodworks Northwest, Gilead, Isoplexis, Metabolon, Nanostring, Olink, Providence Molecular Genomics Laboratory, Scisco Genetics and 10x Genomics.

Our Funding Partners

Funding support for the study came from Merck, The Wilke Family Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Swedish Foundation, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Amazon Web Services, Gilead, Omeros and Washington State Andy Hill CARE Fund.

This project has been funded in part with Federal funds from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, under Contract No. HHSO100201600031C.

Research in the News

 

ST image

Seattle Times

News article about Seattle researchers building ‘biobank’ of patients’ blood to unlock the mysteries of the new coronavirus. Reporter Lewis Kamb spoke with Jim Heath and Jason Goldman.

Read More

Merck ISB Covid-19

Merck and ISB Collaborate

Press release detailing the Merck-ISB collaboration to define the molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and to identify potential prognostic biomarkers.

Read More

psjh-fblive Covid-19

Understanding COVID-19

Video conversation between ISB President Dr. Jim Heath and PSJH CEO Dr. Rod Hochman where the two leaders discussed a number of COVID-19 pandemic topics.

Watch Video

fierce biotech Covid-19

Fierce Biotech

News article about Merck working with ISB and a consortium of companies to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind the novel coronavirus.

Read More

gen Covid-19

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

News article detailing Merck’s partnership with ISB to identify targets for medicines and vaccines against COVID-19.

Read more

metabolon Covid-19

Front Lines of COVID-19

Metabolon blog post about its scientists collaborating with ISB to improve our collective understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.

Read more

metabolon webinar thumbnail

Driving COVID-19 Research Forward

Jim Heath participated in a Metabolon-produced webinar, where he discussed — among other topics — how metabolomics is being used to illuminate the pathophysiology of COVID-19 infection in current research.

Watch video

Seattle Times Covid-19

Seattle Times

News article about Seattle researchers investigating promising ideas to combat COVID-19. Reporter Sandi Doughton spoke with Jim Heath.

Read more

To learn more about the study, get involved, or any other requests, please contact us.