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MGH Research Scholars Respond to COVID-19

In This Video

  • The unrestricted, flexible funding provided through the MGH Research Scholars program empowers scientists to take new discoveries as far as they can, as fast as they can
  • In this video, MGH Research Scholars describe how they rapidly mobilized to address key medical and scientific challenges posed by COVID-19

The MGH Research Scholars program is a philanthropic initiative that provides unrestricted funding for Massachusetts General Hospital researchers who are developing innovative solutions for medicine's most pressing challenges. When the pandemic hit, funding provided by the program gave our Scholars the flexibility to pivot and address COVID-19 challenges in real-time. In this video, the MGH Research Scholars share more about their efforts.


Guillermo J. Tearney, MD, PhD, chief of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Mike and Sue Hazard Family MGH Research Scholar 2012-2017: The most exciting thing about our COVID research is the opportunity to take everything that we've learned pre-COVID and apply it to a new problem with the potential to have a near term impact on patients and caregivers in the crisis.

Galit Alter, PhD, principal investigator at the Ragon Institute, Samana Cay MGH Research Scholar 2017-2022: And so what we've done by using our proprietary technology, we call System Serology, is to essentially profile the antibody response that evolves very early on in SARS-CoV-2 infection. And we've identified antibody biomarkers that essentially can predict the trajectory of the disease in these hospitalized patients.

Hakho Lee, PhD, director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the Center for Systems BiologyHostetter MGH Research Scholar 2017-2022We have developed this compact system for point of care COVID-19 diagnosis. This innovative technology uses a light as a heating source, enabling [inaudible 00:01:11] fast PCR, from sample to answer in 15 minutes.

Matthias Nahrendorf, MD, PhD, investigator in the Center for Systems Biology, Weissman Family MGH Research Scholar 2014-2019We decided to look into how inflammatory changes in the lung can affect the heart. That's something that happens unfortunately to the severely sick COVID-19 patients quite a bit.

Luana Marques, PhD, director of the Community Psychiatry Program for Research in Implementation and Dissemination of Evidence-based Treatments (PRIDE) in the Department of Psychiatry, Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport MGH Research Scholar 2020-2025We have focused on disseminating science skills to all to build a resilience in mental health. We created an internship for 170 inner city youth. And I personally participate in over 60 presentations and interviews nationally and international to build a resilience for our country during this pandemic.

Raymond Chung, MD, vice chief of the Gastrointestinal Division and director of the Hepatology and Liver CenterKevin and Polly Maroni MGH Research Scholar 2013-2018We and other groups have demonstrated the antiviral action of interferon lambda against many different human viruses, including coronaviruses. We believe this medicine has strong antiviral effects that could not only reduce the duration of COVID-19 illness but also based on animal studies, could prevent or dampen the inflammatory picture that is so devastating in this disease.

Michael Talkowski, PhD, director of the Center for Genomic Medicine, Desmond and Ann Heathwood MGH Research Scholar 2015-2020: And in the Center for Genomic Medicine at Mass General Hospital, we're actually extracting the DNA of patients that come through the hospital and sending their DNA to the Broad Institute to sequence all of the three billion bases in our genome and try to pinpoint exactly what changes in the DNA may influence the development of symptoms.

Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Steven and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar 2015-2020: Over the last six months, I've worked to support the activities of the hospital and the division to publish in such areas as safe school reopenings, the value of inexpensive rapid tests, and the paucity of infectious disease expertise nationwide. Additionally, I have added my voice through published commentary related to getting to disease containment through a prevalence data and mask safety.

Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, director for Cancer Epidemiology in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit (CTEU) in the Department of Medicine and vice chief for clinical research in the Division of Gastroenterology, Stuart and Suzanne Steele MGH Research Scholar 2017-2022: So, this has been a really wonderful opportunity for us to learn to use mobile technology as a data collection tool. We've been able to use this data very quickly and lead to some discoveries that we think will help address some of the problems we're facing with COVID.

Nir Hacohen, PhD, director of Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Mass General Cancer Center, MGH Research Scholar 2012-2017: So, we collected and processed blood samples from patients over the course of five weeks to reach 800 samples. Preliminary data suggests that we can predict, in fact, who will get worse and who will get better before they actually manifest. But the most important part is that it will give us ideas for what is going wrong. Why are people actually getting more sick?

Natalia S. Rost, MD, chief of the Stroke DivisionSamana Cay MGH Research Scholar 2019-2024: For the first time in generations, we have an opportunity to explore an entity that was entirely unknown to us until a few months ago. Our research is centered around brain resilience and suddenly we have an opportunity to examine it in an entirely different light.

Jordan W. Smoller, MD, ScD, director of the Psychiatric and Neuodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the Department of Psychiatry, Tepper Family MGH Research Scholar 2014-2019My research group and collaborators locally, nationally, and internationally rapidly launched a series of studies using electronic health records and other large scale data resources to look at how the pandemic and its social and economic consequences are affecting the mental health of diverse populations with a particular interest in the risk of suicide.

Filip K. Swirski, PhD, principal investigator at the Center for Systems Biology, Patricia and Scott Eston MGH Research Scholar 2016-2021: My lab at the Center for Systems Biology is trying to understand how stress, and in particular, acute psychological stress, affects the body's ability to respond to viral infection.

Mark Poznansky, MD, PhD, director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Steve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar 2015-2020With the Scholars Award support, we were able to put a newly designed vaccine in place and ready for testing in animals with a prospect of getting it into humans in the next few months. We really appreciate everything that the Scholars Award made possible. And we were in the right place and the right time to get it done. Thank you.

Ingrid Bassett, MD, MPH, physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Weissman Family MGH Research Scholar 2018-2023: It feels like we're in this global crucible together and that we will come out smarter and more capable of taking care of patients based on the research that we're doing now.

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