The University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology has been selected to participate in a new national network dedicated to serological, or antibody, sciences as one of four Capacity Building Centers in the country. As part of the Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet), the team received a five-year, $6.7 million grant to support their part of the network’s research effort.

«This grant recognizes the deep strength of the faculty in our department as well as the Center for Immunology in the Medical School,» said Leo Furcht, MD, chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. «And thanks to the early investment by Minnesota’s Governor and Legislature in enhancing our University testing capacity, we are in a position to contribute to the nation’s serological study needs as well. We have completed more than 400,000 PCR tests for the state, as well as nearly 16,000 antibody tests based on the test protocols developed in Minnesota.»

SeroNet is a major component of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) response to the pandemic and is included in an emergency Congressional appropriation of $306 million to the Institute «to develop, validate, improve and implement serological testing and associated technologies.»

«The nation’s top researchers in academia, government and private industry have come together in an unprecedented effort to fight the pandemic,» said Dinah Singer, PhD, deputy director of NCI. «Through SeroNet, we are examining the immune response to the coronavirus to speed delivery of testing, treatments and vaccine development for COVID-19. What we learn could be applied immediately and will prove invaluable to public health beyond the current pandemic.»

SeroNet is one of the largest coordinated efforts to study immunology and COVID-19 in the U.S., involving more than 25 universities, cancer centers and laboratories working in partnership with NCI and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to rapidly deploy serological testing to the American public and to improve the understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and mitigate the pathogen’s spread.

«We are looking forward to joining this important effort to help expand our knowledge surrounding immunity to COVID-19,» said Amy Karger, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the department and the principal investigator for the initiative, who leads the University’s Advanced Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, where a majority of the state’s serology work takes place. «We were positioned for this opportunity thanks to the efforts of Dr. Marc Jenkins and his lab in developing an antibody test that has proven to be so reliable.»

In the next few weeks, the research team will provide information to the public about how they can participate in the study.


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