A gift of any size will help to advance research and training in the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens.
Your support will accelerate and expand Penn’s ability to respond to this global outbreak with research in the development of new ways to diagnose, treat, and even prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Immediate Needs for Innovative Research Ideas and Expanded Research Capacity
Develop Rapid Diagnostic Tests ($2 million)
Improved and more widely available assay methods are urgently needed to address this growing epidemic. Research at Penn is already underway to develop cutting edge rapid diagnostic tests that are designed to be used at home, in the clinic, and at points of entry. Support for this effort would accelerate myriad projects in identifying new and faster ways to test for SARS-CoV-2, and allow the tests to reach more patients as quickly as possible.
Expand Antiviral Screening ($2 million)
There are many potential targets for therapeutic intervention in patients with SARS-CoV-2, but further testing requires widespread screening of inhibitors, existing drugs, and other antiviral targets. Support for antiviral screening would allow scientists to use cores at both Penn Medicine and the Wistar Institute to more rapidly and widely screen for potential therapeutic options against the virus.
Launch Research into SARS-CoV-2 Mechanisms ($4 million)
While researchers have access to the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the function of many of the proteins in the virus remain unknown. Understanding these mechanisms could provide key clues to how scientists could stop the replication and proliferation of the virus within the body. Support for launching a full-scale effort into the molecular metabolism of SARS-CoV-2 would support additional team members and equipment, allowing researchers to expand their search for ways to target and treat this virus in humans.
Investigate SARS-CoV-2 and the Lung Microbiome ($500,000)
Penn scientists are already engaged in the study of the human lung microbiome, and how the vast populations of microbes in the lungs react to diseases of the lung, particularly influenza. These teams have begun collecting samples to analyze the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the lung microbiome, which will help to guide physicians in their efforts to treat infected patients. Funding for this effort would expand capacity for collecting samples from more infected patients, storing them safely, and analyzing this critical information.
Explore Gene Therapy Options ($500,000)
Gene therapy has the potential to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 infection, but methods for efficient delivery of genes to the lung are not yet well-developed. Excitingly, scientists at Penn have recently identified a new family of viruses, known as Redondoviruses, that replicate selectively in the human airway. Currently, there are extensive efforts underway to adapt these for therapeutic gene delivery to treat SARS-CoV-2, but additional support would help to accelerate this research and advance our understanding of how to deliver gene-based medicine to the lungs of infected patients.
Design Viral Inhibitors with Computational Methods ($1 million)
SARS-CoV-2 has multiple proteins that could serve as potential targets for therapeutic intervention. By using advanced computational modeling – machine learning in particular – researchers can design molecules precisely to bind these proteins and inhibit the virus from replicating further. Support for this effort would expand computational capacity and advance the testing of potential targets.
Support Urgent Capacity Building ($2 million)
The Department of Microbiology at Penn currently houses the only lab equipped at Biosafety Level Three, the containment level necessary to safely conduct research on SARS-CoV-2. The Center needs immediate assistance in expanding the capacity of this lab, through the addition of both trained staff and specialized equipment. Support for this critical foundation will enable myriad research projects into the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of SARS-CoV-2.
Identify Suitable Model Systems ($3 million)
One of the most important steps on the path to bring potential prevention or treatment options to humans is the process of testing safety and efficacy in an animal model of the disease. As SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus, there is currently no established animal model that is proven to be an effective model for the human manifestation of the disease. It is clear that animal modeling will be a critical component to addressing this viral outbreak, as was shown in the SARS-CoV outbreak identified in 2003. Support for this work would allow researchers to add necessary staff and facility space under Biosafety Level Three containment guidelines.
Increase Biobanking Capability ($2 million)
As Penn begins to treat more patients infected by SARS-CoV-2, it will be critical to build an infrastructure of streamlined sample collection and storage in the Penn Medicine BioBank. Samples taken from affected patients will be invaluable to investigators at Penn seeking ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent this disease. Support for this infrastructure increases capacity to properly and safely collect and store these samples, making them readily available for new and emerging research.
There are many ways to support the Center’s critical work. If you are interested in making a contribution to any of the needs above, or wish to discuss other opportunities to make a gift to the Center, please contact our Penn Medicine Development team: