The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced a $13.6 million commitment in support of research on the spread and impact of COVID-19 across the San Francisco Bay Area.
The funding will support a nine-month collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco, Stanford University, and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub focused on two long-term studies. The first will test a representative sample of the local population to acquire data that can inform policy decisions about safely reopening California's economy and ensuring that transmission rates remain low until a vaccine becomes available. To that end, researchers will conduct diagnostic (PCR) testing to track new infections and serological testing for antibodies in asymptomatic individuals; the viral genomes from all positive samples will be sequenced to identify transmission chains and to determine whether co-infections with other pathogens play a significant role in COVID-19.
The second study will examine whether COVID-19 antibodies protect healthcare workers against reinfection and, if so, for how long. Healthcare workers who previously tested negative will undergo PCR and serological retesting on a weekly basis for at least twelve weeks so that researchers can determine the rate at which they become infected, with or without symptoms. Those who are initially found to be seropositive will be followed into December to assess their immunity and likelihood of reinfection.
"To reopen society in the Bay Area and keep healthcare workers safe, we need to first understand the epidemiology of this disease," said CZI co-founder and co-CEO Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician. "How much of our population is currently infected with COVID-19? How prevalent is asymptomatic spread? And how can we use this information to better understand who may still be at risk in the future? There is no shortcut to answering these questions — it will require testing, retesting, and the sort of rigorous public health surveying this program is focused on in California. We're grateful to help accelerate this work and partner with Stanford and UCSF — two of our state's and the world's greatest scientific research institutions — to help find these answers."
(Photo credit: Joe Hiatt)