Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Partners HealthCare joined Biogen Inc. (Nasdaq: BIIB) to build a COVID-19 biobank. This future biobank will build and share a COVID-19 biobank that will help scientists stud a large collection of de-identified biological and medical data to advance knowledge and search for potential vaccines and treatments. Additionally, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech company helps employees who seek to volunteer connect with the project. The volunteers are among the first people in Massachusetts to be diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 as well as close contacts of those individuals, including people who were not tested or who may not have had symptoms.
This unique, clustered group of patients with a common exposure will offer a valuable lens into why some people show signs of disease and others are asymptomatic. It may also shed light on why some have more severe symptoms than ever. Moreover, investigators will examine blood samples from recovered patients to evaluate the levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and other aspects of their immune profiles—this may point to new therapeutic options. As Biogen has an internal outbreak, their employees who contracted and have recovered from COVID-19, as well as those identified as close contacts of those individuals—are eligible to participate.
The Division of labor
Partners HealthCare and Massachusetts General Hospital will coordinate the outreach and sample collection effort. The Broad Institute will serve as the place to process and analyze blood samples. The biobank will then provide a unique, anonymous medical and biological data set that has the potential to shed light on the biology of the virus and illuminate pathways for potential vaccines, treatments, and other breakthroughs. The biobank will also store frozen samples, which may inform future research with appropriate patient consent. Biogen will have the same level of access to the biobank as researchers around the world, which means it will not have access to identifiable information, nor will the company know which employees and close contacts volunteered to participate.