Optimizing COVID-19 Research with CTSA Resources
CTSA resources are vital to our Hub’s efforts to understand SARS-CoV-2 infection and to prevent and treat COVID-19. In partnership with institutional leadership, our CTSA launched a rapid, multifaceted response protocol to advance the work of Pei-Yong Shi, PhD and his team, who had been working with the Galveston National Laboratory to develop a high throughput assay platform for neutralizing antibody testing. Dr. Shi is a leader in our Hub’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Studio and through conversations with him, we became aware of the impact the assay platform could have on the response to COVID-19 outbreaks. In late March and early April of 2020, as our Hub’s third 5-year CTSA funding cycle was beginning, we focused the support of multiple CTSA and institutional resources to optimize the outcomes of the assay project. As we mobilized resources to support this and other COVID-19 research projects, we concentrated on activities in four key areas: Collaboration, Operations, Funding, and Communication. By focusing and coordinating resources, our hub was able to quickly identify pressing research needs, convene a multidisciplinary team of investigators, identify and obtain funding, receive regulatory approval, identify external collaborators, develop a multi-site protocol, and initiate research to address a deadly global pandemic. So far in 2020, UTMB investigators have been awarded nearly $28.5M for relevant basic discovery research, preclinical testing and evaluation, clinical and epidemiological research, and the development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Our CTSA continues to play a key role in identifying and supporting COVID-19 research across the translational spectrum. We convened a week-long virtual symposium to catalyze collaborations among investigators working on COVID-19 research in different fields. Through our pilot program and community engagement core, we are applying the rapid response protocol to collaborations addressing COVID-19-associated impacts and social determinants of health among residents of long-term care facilities, and the evaluation of cystatins and the microbiome as a SARS-CoV-2 therapy. We are also applying the protocol to advance a multi-institutional collaboration related to diabetes.