Merck joins Seattle consortium to uncover COVID-19's molecular workings

(NIAID - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

Merck & Co. began working with the Institute for Systems Biology and a consortium of companies to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind the novel coronavirus, in a bid to identify new targets for medicines and vaccines. Late last month, the ISB launched a study with health workers from Swedish Medical Center to explore why certain COVID-19 patients die or require intensive care while others may show no symptoms at all.

By collecting blood and nasal swabs at different times following a patient’s diagnosis, the researchers plan to amass a large dataset that includes the patients’ genomes, proteomes and metabolomes, plus single-cell analytics of the evolving immune system response and the infection’s effect on different organs. Other participants in the study include health workers within Providence St. Joseph Health and the Swedish Medical System, as well as collaborators from Stanford University, IsoPlexis, Adaptive Biotechnologies, 10x Genomics, Metabolon and others. 

Merck will provide research funding and work with ISB researchers to find targets for potential interventions, including drugs, antibody therapies and vaccines. The study will initially analyze samples from 200 patients with the potential to expand to 300.

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