Follow COVID-19 research money to find stories near you

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

scientist-with-microscopeThe timeless advice sometimes attributed to Deep Throat or Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein to “follow the money” certainly applies to COVID-19.

For reporters looking for local stories, follow the money doled out by the National Institutes of Health for COVID-19 research. Most recently, the National Cancer Institute, which received $306 million from Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, announced the first grants and contracts to researchers to form the Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19.

The NCI calls the effort “SeroNet” with the broad aim of studying immune responses to SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It also states that its goal is to improve the ability to test for infection, especially within demographic groups, and speed the development of treatments and vaccines.

Look here and here – for the names of the grantees, the amounts they received and descriptions of the projects and check to see if any are within your reporting beat. Many of the scientists involved in the project may be great sources to talk about COVID-19 testing and understanding why some people seem to get very sick from COVID-19 and why others do not.

The NIH says SeroNet consists of multiple entities, including the Frederick, Md.-based Frederick National Laboratory serology and cancer lab, which has been advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the approval process for commercial COVID-19 antibody tests since May 2020. The lab will continue these commercial evaluation efforts, as well as developing standards for using convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatments and fostering collaboration among SeroNet researchers.

Four labs – Arizona State University, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the University of Minnesota, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai – will receive funds to build capacity for 5,000 antibody tests a week as part of COVID-19 infection surveillance in the population.

Click here for the NIH announcement of SeroNet, which includes the names of two scientists – Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., NCI principal deputy director;

and Dinah S. Singer, Ph.D., deputy director, scientific strategy and development, NCI – available to speak to the media about the effort.

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