In late December 2019, the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province experienced an outbreak of illness caused by an unknown viral pathogen. Months later, the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 swept across the globe, sowing death, devastating health care systems, and crushing economies. It has become the long-foretold pandemic that epidemiologists have predicted since the 1918 influenza pandemic killed at least 3 percent of the world’s population.
In response to this global health crisis, Harvard Medical School (HMS) convened the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness to address both the immediate implications of the pandemic and the long-term need for enhanced preparedness for the next one.
The initiative, formalized at a March 2, 2020 meeting at HMS, was sparked by a collaborative research grant from the Evergrande Group. Under the research agreement, $115 million will be shared equally between Boston-based researchers and colleagues at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health (GIRH). The Boston-based consortium, spearheaded by HMS Dean George Q. Daley, along with faculty co-leads Arlene Sharpe, Bruce Walker and David Golan, has engaged hundreds of scientists across 20 Boston-area universities, medical schools, research institutes and teaching hospitals. More scientists are joining the ranks daily. The consortium’s steering committee is composed of experts in the fields of virology, immunology, microbiology, epidemiology, pathology, diagnostics and therapeutic development, computational biology and clinical medicine.
The consortium’s work is focused in six areas:
- Clinical Management and Outcomes Research (clinical practice, clinical trials)
- Diagnostics (rapid point-of-care viral and serologic testing, biomarkers of severe disease)
- Epidemiology (surveillance, infection forecasting and modeling)
- Pathogenesis (defining host-pathogen interactions, immune responses)
- Therapeutics (antiviral and immunomodulating medications; antibody-based treatments)
- Vaccines (evaluation in animal models; partnerships with biopharma)
On March 17, 2020, on behalf of MassCPR, HMS announced the most accelerated Request for Proposals in its history. The response was overwhelming, with more than 450 submissions received from investigators across the laboratory-intensive research schools of Harvard University, from researchers at MIT, Boston University School of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School and HMS-affiliated hospitals and research institutes and from senior scientists from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The consortium prioritized applications with clear potential for scientific and/or clinical impact targeting the most urgent needs of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since March 2020, to confront this grim new contagion, MassCPR has brought together scientists to work in new ways that are more collaborative, open and dedicated to the continual pursuit of transformative knowledge for the benefit of humanity.
MassCPR includes participants from the following institutions:
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
- Boston Children’s Hospital
- Boston Medical Center
- The Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
- Massachusetts General Hospital
- Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Harvard Medical School
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard
- Boston University
- Tufts Medical Center
- Tufts University
- University of Massachusetts Medical School
- Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering