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Yale Cancer Center Receives NIH Grant to Fund COVID-19 Research in Patients with Hematologic Cancers

October 08, 2020

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a Research Project Cooperative Agreement grant to Yale Cancer Center (YCC). The 2-year, $1.4 million U01 award will fund immuno-serological assays for monitoring COVID-19 in patients with hematologic malignancies. The NIH Cooperative Agreement grants support a discrete, specified, circumscribed research project to be performed by investigators in an area representing specific interests and competencies.

“Patients with hematologic malignancies have a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, determined by their underlying diseases and their treatments,” said Stephanie Halene, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology), Interim Chief of Hematology at YCC and Smilow Cancer Hospital and Co-Principal Investigator. “For this grant, we will work with many investigators here at Yale to develop and validate two novel immuno-serological assays to be deployed to conduct longitudinal measurement of plasma markers and peripheral blood immune cells from COVID-19 patients with different hematologic malignancies.” Researchers will use the plasma protein assay and single cell microchip to measure a cohort of COVID-19 patients with or without hematological malignancies and healthy donors. The goal is to identify potential molecular correlates with immune-mediated pathology and COVID-19 disease severity, which may be unique in patients with hematologic malignancies.

“We are excited to work together on this critical project as it is of vital importance and urgency to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, for a vulnerable group of patients with blood cancers,” said Rong Fan, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, member of YCC and Principal Investigator. “Our findings could potentially guide the design of effective treatments for COVID-19 patients.”

The grant is part of the new national Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet), a major component of NCI’s response to the pandemic and is included in an emergency Congressional appropriation of $306 million to the Institute “to develop, validate, improve, and implement serological testing and associated technologies.”

SeroNet is one of the largest coordinated effort to study immunology and COVID-19 in the U.S., involving more than 25 universities, cancer centers and laboratories working in partnership with NCI and NIAID to rapidly deploy serological testing to the American public and to improve our understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and mitigate the pathogen’s spread.

Submitted by Anne Doerr on October 08, 2020