Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Tip Sheet: COVID-19 vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 mutations, shedding pandemic pounds – and nematode nerve cells

Summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news

Newswise — SEATTLE —Feb. 4, 2021 —Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news with links for additional background and media contacts.

We are looking forward to the Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Meetings, to be held online Feb. 8-12. Read highlights of Fred Hutch research to be presented, including on COVID-19 and cancer and new insights on treating and other complications from transplantation. 

Building trust in safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines As the U.S. grapples with the effort to distribute massive quantities of vaccine, the fundamental challenge is the more delicate task of persuading tens of millions of people it is safe to take it. Drs. Steve Pergam, Stephaun Wallace and Parth Shah how they are building trust with their communities. Dr. Pergam also acknowledged on Twitter that one year had passed since the first U.S. COVID-19 diagnosis.

Vaccine optimization for COVID-19: Who to vaccinate first? In the Feb. 3 of Science Advances, Dr. Laura Matrajt, an applied mathematician at Fred Hutch, published a study using mathematical models and optimization algorithms showing trade-offs between vaccinating populations who are at risk for more severe cases of COVID-19 and populations who are more likely to transmit the virus. The work originally appeared as a preprint over the summer. She also has a preprint on the potential value of mixed vaccination strategies (with some groups receiving a single dose and others receiving full dosage) for COVID-19. One of the goals of Matrajt’s work is to help policy makers plan appropriate public health interventions. Follow her on Twitter.

Cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines Patients with cancer are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the immunocompromising nature of cancer treatments. Does that mean cancer patients should be first in line for their shot or last? Drs. Gary Lyman and Steven Pergam provide helpful guidance.

CIBMTR study: Higher risk of dying of COVID-19 for blood and stem cell recipients Dr. Neel Bhatt co-authored a paper published Jan. 20 in The Lancet Haematology showing outcomes of transplant patients who had COVID-19.The Center for International Blood and Marrow Research led the multi-site study with data from 318 patients. In a CIBMTR press release, the co-authors encouraged transplant patients to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are able. Follow Dr. Bhatt on Twitter.

Prospective mapping of viral mutations that escape antibodies used to treat COVID-19 In the Jan. 25 online issue of Science, evolutionary biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom and his lab published a paper mapping SARS-CoV-2 mutations that escape therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. As new mutations of the virus appear, they can be checked for whether therapeutic antibodies will be impacted. Read more on Bloom’s Twitter thread.

HIV antibody trial results offer ‘proof of concept’ The HIV Vaccine Trials Network, headquartered at Fred Hutch, and its sister network, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, released results from the five-year Antibody Mediated Prevention study. Researchers found that the broadly neutralizing antibody VRC01 was effective at blocking some HIV infections, but it will likely take a combination of different and more potent proteins to block all strains of the virus. Fred Hutch virologist Dr. Larry Corey, protocol chair for the AMP study, d the findings at the HIV Research for Prevention Conference.

Shed the pandemic pounds Traditionally, the first month of the year is when many of us think purposefully about rebooting our health. This year? The combination of stress, loss and upheaval has some of us jumping off the wagon before even climbing on. Dr. Heather Greenlee encourages all to get more sleep, eat mostly plants, keep moving, and stay connected.

How to reroute a broken neural circuit Fred Hutch neuroscientist Dr. Jihong Bai explains why he studies tiny worms called nematodes. His work focuses on molecular connections, called electrical synapses, that pass electrical impulses between neurons without relying on a chemical intermediate.

Could bacterial enzymes drive cancer formation by directly modifying human DNA?

New awards to spur innovation, commercialization in life sciences research

Working from home and showing the Heart of the Hutch

Science Says virtual event: Progress on the Pandemic: A year of tackling COVID-19


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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

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Released: 12-May-2021 5:10 PM EDT
Understanding SARS-COV-2 proteins is key to improve therapeutic options for COVID-19
Bentham Science Publishers

COVID-19 has had a significant impact since the pandemic was declared by WHO in 2020, with over 3 million deaths and counting, Researchers and medical teams have been hard at work at developing strategies to control the spread of the infection, caused by SARS-COV-2 virus and treat affected patients.

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Released: 12-May-2021 4:55 PM EDT
COVID-19 vaccine does not damage the placenta in pregnancy
Northwestern University

A new Northwestern Medicine study of placentas from patients who received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy found no evidence of injury, adding to the growing literature that COVID-19 vaccines are safe in pregnancy.

Released: 12-May-2021 3:45 PM EDT
Parks not only safe, but essential during the pandemic
Drexel University

Parks played an important role for people seeking respite from the toll of social isolation during the pandemic, and according to new research from Drexel University, they did so without increasing the spread of COVID-19.

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Embargo will expire: 18-May-2021 11:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 12-May-2021 3:35 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 18-May-2021 11:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: Pandemic Has 'Severely Weakened Surgical Innovation Pipeline'
Released: 12-May-2021 3:15 PM EDT
Pandemic Has 'Severely Weakened Surgical Innovation Pipeline'
Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School

In a new study for the journal Surgical Innovation, Associate Professor Toby Gordon of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School addresses the ways in which COVID-19 has slowed medical innovation.

Released: 12-May-2021 2:55 PM EDT
Mental health helplines need human-centered solutions
Cornell University

In India today, dozens of phone numbers are available for people who are having a severe mental health emergency. Oftentimes, however, callers experience difficulty in getting connected with someone who will listen to them; sometimes the phone will just ring and ring.

Newswise: Weizmann Institute Scientists Reveal the Triple Threat of Coronavirus
Released: 12-May-2021 2:40 PM EDT
Weizmann Institute Scientists Reveal the Triple Threat of Coronavirus
Weizmann Institute of Science

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute and the Israel Institute for Biological, Chemical and Environmental Sciences took a novel tack to investigating SARS-CoV-2’s powerful ability to infect, finding that the virus deploys an apparently unique three-pronged strategy to take over the cell’s protein-synthesis abilities. The work could help develop effective Covid-19 treatments.

Newswise: Rush Collaborates With Malcolm X College to Train COVID-19 Vaccine Ambassadors
Released: 12-May-2021 2:20 PM EDT
Rush Collaborates With Malcolm X College to Train COVID-19 Vaccine Ambassadors
Rush University Medical Center

Rush staff members collaborated with Malcom X College to provide content including video scenarios and conversation advice, for a new Vaccine Ambassador Course offered to the public.

Newswise: Using Ultrasound Stimulation to Reduce Inflammation in COVID-19 In-Patients
Released: 12-May-2021 1:35 PM EDT
Using Ultrasound Stimulation to Reduce Inflammation in COVID-19 In-Patients
University of California San Diego Health

Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine have begun a pilot clinical trial to test the efficacy of using ultrasound to stimulate the spleen and reduce COVID-19-related inflammation, decreasing the length of hospital stays.

Released: 12-May-2021 9:00 AM EDT
Rapid COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Delivers Results Within 4 Minutes With 90 Percent Accuracy
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

A low-cost, rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19 developed by Penn Medicine provides COVID-19 results within four minutes with 90 percent accuracy. A paper published this week in Matter details the fast and inexpensive diagnostic test, called RAPID 1.0. Compared to existing methods for COVID-19 detection, RAPID is inexpensive and highly scalable, allowing the production of millions of units per week.

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