New Coronavirus Initiative

Date: March 2, 2020 By:

The Ragon Institute, with its commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and patient-focused research, has begun a multipronged approach towards understanding, treating, and preventing infections with the new human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Ragon Institute scientists are playing  a leadership role in mobilizing an unprecedented Boston-Cambridge consortium dedicated to collaborative efforts to ending the growing pandemic, bringing together Harvard, MIT, BU, the academic hospitals, local pharma and biotech, and the Gates Medical Research Institute as well as Chinese collaborators.


As the number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by this novel coronavirus, increase throughout the world, Ragon Institute investigators are helping to convene a meeting of over 80 investigators from Boston and Cambridge on Monday, March 2nd. The goal of this initial meeting is to create cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary collaborations, bringing the full power of the unparalleled scientific prowess of the local biomedical community to providing collaborative solutions to this growing threat. HMS brings to these efforts a funded, five-year collaboration with China’s Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health.


Ragon members Xu Yu, Aaron Schmidt, Daniel Lingwood, Arup Chakraborty, Darrell Irvine, Dan Barouch, Galit Alter, Doug Kwon, Alex Shalek, Facundo Batista, and Bruce Walker, will bring their diverse backgrounds and skills to study the virology and immunology of the disease, and to make vaccines to prevent infection. Vaccine constructs have already been developed by Dan Barouch, a founding member of the Ragon Institute, and are being tested in animals. These efforts utilize the same vaccine platform supporting Ragon Institute HIV vaccine efforts (HVTN 705) and are funded by a timely $500,000 gift from Mark and Lisa Schwartz. Additional efforts are already underway by the Schmidt and Lingwood labs at the Ragon Institute, using protein engineering models originally developed to study influenza to design additional coronavirus immunogens, and in the Shalek lab, applying single cell transcriptional profiling to examine the immunogenicity of candidate vaccines.


The fast, flexible, and highly collaborative nature of the Ragon Institute is enabling a quick, comprehensive response to this coronavirus. Institute investigators will continue to work with experts across multiple fields and institutions to harness the immune system against this emerging disease, developing tools that will not only address the current threat but will also increase preparedness for future outbreaks of new infectious diseases.

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