Although a significant number of clinical trials conducted at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) were put on hold or delayed during the height of the pandemic in the spring, with the late summer Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and other centers now shift to full throttle ahead with clinical trials and programs. Ranked in or near the top 5 elite medical schools in the United States, since mid-July research teams have reactivated much of what was on hold as scientists have returned to laboratories while clinical sites are back online. With the experience of COVID-19 now ongoing, centers such as CUIMC have a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to not only medical progress but perhaps a research imperative that is ever more connected to the survival of us all.
Columbia Stem Cell Initiative
Recently, Columbia University updated the world that its scientists were back and “re-energized” with the shut downs of March but seeming like a distant memory. Barbara Corneo, PhD, VP&S associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation & Regenerative Medicine and director of the Stem Cell Core Facility, commented on the center’s website, “We had 10 days to shut down completely, so we turned off all our incubators and moved all our cells into the freezers.”
With the Stem Cell Core Facility down, researchers capitalized on the time to finish papers and prepare coursework for the new online “Zoom” world, and of course many volunteered for Columbia University Researchers Against COVID-19 (CRAC), deploying researchers into laboratories conducting ongoing research targeting the pandemic.
David Sulzer, PhD, VP&S professor of psychiatry, reported that students “took online courses, learned to write computer programs, or wrote review papers to get more in-depth understanding of their field. These are things that are important, but they couldn’t have had the time before.”
Both Corneo and Sulzer report that all researchers are back in the lab and now “things are running close to 100%.”
The New Norm: Perhaps Even Better than Before
Professor Corneo reports that “We’re doing our best to live in this new reality,” which, of course, means social distancing, personal protective equipment and digital technologies including Zoom. Corneo has been inspired by the work of Columbia scientists and physicians volunteering during the shutdown: the focus is SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests with CRAC.
Summarizing the energy, enthusiasm and excitement with the return Corneo stated for the Columbia website, “I have never felt so proud and excited to be a scientists! It’s amazing to think that just six to seven months ago, we didn’t know anything about this virus, and now we have tests, and treatments and vaccines making rapid progress.”
Call to Action: Follow the link to Columbia University Irvine Medical Center (CUIMC) for upbeat, positive and promising updates out of New York City.