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As part of Emory University’s participation in the multi-center Immunophenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort (IMPACC), the Yerkes National Primate Research Center has received a one-year, $4.1 million grant supplement from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to track gene expression from 1,000 COVID-19 patients. This information will help IMPACC’s efforts to develop COVID-19 biomarkers, which are necessary for predicting disease severity and informing treatment decisions. Patient recruitment for this study is under way, and the researchers expect to have initial biomarkers results by October. 

Lead researcher Steve Bosinger, PhD, and his research team will produce RNA sequencing data from COVID-19 patients’ blood, which healthcare professionals will collect at several time points after infection. Emory University’s Nadine Rouphael, MD, is one of the healthcare professionals as are providers at more than 15 other academic health centers across the country. Bosinger is assistant professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Emory School of Medicine (SOM) and Emory Vaccine Center (EVC); director, Yerkes Nonhuman Primate (NHP) Genomics Core; and a researcher in Yerkes’ Division of Microbiology and Immunology. Rouphael is associate professor of medicine, Emory SOM, and IMPACC’s chair, and she is funded by NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. 

The Emory researchers will combine their sequencing data with data from the University of California, San Francisco, which is Emory’s partner site in this component of the IMPACC study. “The goal of combining the patient data, which hospital systems will begin collecting at 48 hours after admission through one year after hospital discharge, is to develop actionable biomarkers healthcare professionals can use to inform their treatment and management decisions,” says Bosinger.

To develop the biomarkers, IMPACC researchers and healthcare professionals will initially search for molecular patterns that can predict disease and recovery. Later analyses will focus on protecting patients from potential reinfection and monitoring the impact of new treatments against the virus.  

“The lack of detailed molecular and immunological information severely impairs accurate decision-making, such as not being able to prioritize patients who will progress to severe COVID-19 disease,” Bosinger adds. “By combining our immunogenomics experience and dedicated infrastructure for next-generation sequencing with the expertise of our clinical partners, we can empower healthcare providers and systems with the information they need to make faster, data-driven clinical decisions, increase definitive communication with patients and, ultimately, better serve those seeking healthcare at this critical time.”