Kudos to the SARS-CoV-2 Task Force

The SARS-CoV-2 Task Force was initiated in March with a strong collaborative response from CWRU investigators to research an unknown, deadly virus and fight what has become one of the most accelerated and catastrophic pandemics in our history. Yesterday, they held a retreat to share their discoveries—some of the most important research happening today.

The Task Force was formed because confident, capable investigators took the risk to stop what they were doing, pivot and focus on ending the spread of this virus. While many of us think about COVID a few times a day, they live and breathe it, 24-7. From medical, nursing and graduate students, to clinicians and clinical investigators, to HIV and emerging infection researchers, to scientists with a background in cell therapy, inflammatory diseases, acute pulmonary injury, organ transplants and immunodeficiencies—each of them have gathered together to understand, counteract and mitigate this improbable viral disorder and to offer their unrelenting commitment and support toward its ultimate control.

As a young medical resident from 1977 to 1980, I cared for patients with a new outbreak, adult immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, later known to come from infection with HIV. We, too, pivoted in our care and research to transform it into what it has become today—a chronic disease with a near-normal life expectancy. That epidemic also posed a poorly understood threat to caregivers and was accompanied by public anxiety, skepticism and political divide. Some of us might view COVID-19 as AIDS-2. As with HIV, I hope we are approaching an inflection point soon. 

How have we done? Our enrollment in vaccine trials has been a tour de force. Our competitive success with U grants (substantial research cooperative agreements) has been impressive, and efforts in supplements and in clinical trials indicate that our team’s pivot and focus has been met with national appreciation. Further, our Cleveland hospitals’ coordination of planning has maintained capacity to care for COVID patients, even during our current surge. And finally, our genomics-shared resource is in the thick of developing an onsite test that may enable more cost-efficient surveillance screening in the near future.

To see the groundswell and efforts of the SARS-CoV-2 Task Force has been remarkable for me to watch and encourage. My heartfelt thanks and kudos to each and every one of you.