Filipina scientist joins team hunting for vaccine against coronavirus disease

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2020 07:52 PM

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ROCKVILLE, MD — A Filipina Harvard research fellow has joined a team of experts in the US in search for the much-needed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.

Joann Diray-Arce, who is the immunoassay and computing lead for the clinical and data coordinating center of the Phenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort (IMPACC) research project, will help scientists figure out how to make precise vaccines for specific patient groups who react differently to the infection of SARS-COV2 – the virus that causes COVID 19.

“We wanted to know and see what are the biomarkers or the signatures of the disease of COVID-19. So most of the data that are coming from all these patients will be going to my direction which we’ll be doing a lot of coordination management of all these data,” Diray-Arce explained.

“Imagine that we are expecting about 200,000 samples that will be generated, that means there’s so much data that will be coming to us and also the analyses to be able to understand and determine these biomarkers," she added.

The study is led and directed directly by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, under the direction of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“We just wanted to know if this is something that we can design new vaccines early on, based from the signatures of the disease or even therapeutics," she added.

Diray-Arce said the success of these vaccines will also depend on data gathered and analyzed by their IMPACC team to make sure that the ultimate vaccine will be safe, effective and can be mass produced rapidly once it is ready.

Among the facilities collaborating with NIAID and Dr. Fauci is the precision vaccines program at the Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The study is called Immuno Phenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort (IMPACC),” said Dr. Ofer Levy.

“It will play a key role in a 12-month nationwide study to learn how the immune system of people hospitalized with COVID-19 respond to the disease over time."

The study will involve enrolling 1,000 study participants in 10 biomedical centers across the U.S. and collecting data and samples at various stages, from hospital admission to recovery convalesces.