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Feinstein Institutes gets $11.3 million subcontract for COVID-19 antibody research

Researchers to develop and deploy serological (antibody) testing assays as well as study the molecular mechanisms driving serological, humoral, and cellular immune responses to the virus

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The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research has been awarded a multi-year subcontract from The Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNL), currently operated by Leidos Biomedical Research, for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to establish a Capacity Building Center (CBC) to further develop and deploy serological (antibody) testing assays for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Working with Northwell Health Laboratories, this facility – one of four such centres in the country – will also pursue research studies of the immune system response to the disease.

The funding awarded by the NCI’s Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet) was established using funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act appropriation of $306 million to develop, validate, improve, and implement serological testing. The Feinstein Institutes will work in close partnership with the FNL Serology Laboratory and three other CBC research institutions to support the overall goals of SeroNet.

Each CBC will tackle three main antibody testing goals, including the standardisation of tests, developing better, more sensitive assays, and methods needed to conduct large-scale testing to identify those who may have been infected or exposed to the virus. Each centre expects to test and return results to at least 5,000 people each week. Northwell Health Laboratories is already performing about 14,000 antibody tests per week. The Feinstein Institutes will develop new testing assays in collaboration with SeroNet, and further characterize the role of antibody testing for both patient care and population health.

“To better understand the course of COVID-19 and its impact on patient’s bodies, we must develop more efficient and accurate antibody tests and integrate them with a deeper understanding of the disease,” said Peter K Gregersen, MD, principal investigator of the CBC and professor at the Feinstein Institutes.

Researchers will also study the molecular mechanisms driving serological, humoral, and cellular immune responses to the virus. These discoveries will hopefully lead to a better understanding of treatments and therapeutic development. As part of the SeroNet, each research institution will share data, resources, and samples. The groups’ effort will develop a plan to scale up high-quality, serological testing to meet the emerging national need and collaborate on long-term studies.

“Northwell and Feinstein’s research leadership in New York’s COVID-19 surge provided crucial foundational knowledge during the early stages of the pandemic. This project will now harness the tens of thousands of blood samples to further unravel the immunological mechanisms of this disease,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes.

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