Task Force Connects Scientists
This article was modified from the original, which appeared in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Research Office Breakthroughs newsletter. You can read the entire article here.
As it became clear that COVID-19 (coronavirus) was developing into a deadly global pandemic, members of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine research community, including Northwestern Medicine physician-scientists, sprang into action to help combat it. Faculty and staff activated dozens of new projects related to COVID-19, some from their labs on the Chicago campus and others from their home offices.
A Feinberg School of Medicine COVID-19 Task Force is now cataloging all research related to COVID-19 that is being performed by faculty and staff. The team is connecting appropriate projects with clinical information and samples, and encouraging people with similar ideas to work together.
“We want to maximize our research impact and minimize intrusions on critical healthcare pathways,” says Rex Chisholm, PhD, the Adam and Richard T. Lind Professor of Medical Genetics and vice dean for scientific affairs and graduate education at Feinberg School of Medicine.
More than 130 COVID-19 projects and ideas had been reported to the task force by April 2020, just one month after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. The research ranges from new clinical trials of medications for patients with the virus to innovative public health outreach campaigns.
This type of collaboration is key to success when time is so critical. Karla Satchell, PhD, director of the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases (CSGID) at Northwestern University, has been leading a multi-institution, international effort to investigate the structure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By rebooting previous research related to SARS, the center was able to quickly begin investigating the protein structures of the virus with the goal of finding new drug targets for COVID-19. Read more about the team’s success.
“I think that the pace of research has been unprecedented,” Satchell says. “Also, it’s been amazing to see the sharing of resources. It used to be that if you had a new drug target, the first thing you did is kept it quiet. Now people are making a lot of information public, and that is I think just a great blueprint for the community to follow, not only for this but for the future.”