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Merck, ISB, Swedish Collaborate In Trial to Understand, Treat COVID-19

Illustration of a warrior using a katana to slash a coronavirus in half

Illustration of a warrior using a katana to slash a coronavirus in half
© ISB

Story updated August 11, 2020

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. 

On April 27, Merck and ISB announced a partnership that provides critical support for the research study. Read the press release here.

“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.

ISB President Jim Heath joined PSJH CEO Rod Hochman in a video discussion, where the two leaders discussed a number of COVID-19 pandemic topics, including the ISB-Swedish study.

The study team collects blood from consenting patients at three different time points, starting at the point of diagnosis. The researchers are collecting large data sets that include the patients’ genomes, their evolving blood proteome and metabolome, plus detailed single cell analytics of many distinct immune cell populations. 

The goals of the study are two-fold. First, the data will provide deep insights into how COVID-19 evolves in patients, and how that correlates with the full spectrum of infection severities. These insights will be mined so that those patients most in need of serious medical treatments can be identified at the early stages of infection, while other patients can be directed to convalesce at home. Second, the deep analysis of immune cell populations can provide insights into which therapies currently being tested in COVID-19 patient trials are the most effective. Those insights may also provide guidance for improving the design of emerging therapy concepts that are currently under development in various labs around the world.

About 25 ISB scientists are working on this study. The project involves collaborations with many other health workers within Providence Health and the Swedish Medical System. Collaborating on the study with Merck, ISB and Swedish are Adaptive Biotechnologies, Bloodworks Northwest, Gilead, Isoplexis, Metabolon, Nanostring, Olink, Providence Molecular Genomics Laboratory, Scisco Genetics, Stanford University, and 10x Genomics.

The overwhelming sentiment from across this scientific consortium is to make the data rapidly and freely available to the worldwide scientific and biomedical community engaged in the struggle against SARS-COV-2. 

Funding support for the study came from:

  • Merck
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Gilead
  • The MJ Murdock Charitable Trust
  • Omeros
  • Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Swedish Foundation
  • Washington State Andy Hill CARE Fund, and
  • The Wilke Family Foundation, which is run by Amazon co-CEO Jeff Wilke and his wife, Liesl.
Contact:

covid19@isbscience.org

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