Feinstein Institutes subcontracted for $11.9M to study COVID antibodies

Feinstein Institutes subcontracted for $11.9M to study COVID antibodies
Dr. Peter Gregersen is the principal investigator for the Capacity Building Center the Feinstein is establishing with the subcontract for COVID-19 antibody research. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset has been awarded a multi-year $11.9 million subcontract from the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, currently operated by Leidos Biomedical Research Inc. for the National Cancer Institute, to establish a capacity-building center to further develop and deploy serological (antibody) testing assays for COVID-19.

Working with Northwell Health Laboratories, this facility — one of four 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, or 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 standardization of tests; developing better, more sensitive assays; and creating methods needed to conduct large-scale testing to identify those who may have been infected or exposed to the virus.

The four centers each expect to test and return results to at least 5,000 people each week per facility, with Northwell Health Laboratories 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 Dr. Peter K. Gregersen, principal investigator of the CBC and a professor at the Feinstein Institutes. “It is exciting to have the support of the NCI and the SeroNet collaborations in order to contribute to this goal.”

Researchers will also study the molecular mechanisms driving serological, humoral, and cellular immune responses to the virus, with the hopes that these discoveries will lead to a better understanding of treatments and therapeutic development. As part of the SeroNet, each research institution will share data, resources, and samples, and the groups’ efforts 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,” said Dr. Kevin J. Tracey president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes. “This project will now harness the tens of thousands of blood samples to further unravel the immunological mechanisms of this disease.”

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