COVID Vaccines, Therapeutics, Variants, Long COVID, Ability To Tackle the Next Pandemic

Director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Mark Poznansky, joins Dr. Marc Siegel on Sirius XM Doctor Radio and discusses the latest information on vaccine development, current therapeutics, Long COVID, individual responsibility in preventing the spread of COVID, and the United States’ ability to tackle the next pandemic.

IBD Patients Like Eric Prompt More Questions About COVID-19

A piece on Crohn’s written by Student intern at VIC, Eric Chen. 

“I began to feel ill the night of my eighth birthday. Less than a month later, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Having just barely finished second grade, I didn’t know what this disease meant or its severity — let alone what the condition had in store for me. Since my diagnosis nearly a decade ago, I have luckily required relatively minimal treatment and experienced no subsequent flare-ups. Now, living through the COVID-19 pandemic as a high-school senior, the potential implications of the virus have caused newfound worry for me and my loved ones…”

Remote Student Internship experiences at VIC during the unprecedented summer of 2020

VIC has traditionally hosted many, mostly undergraduate but some high school, students each summer in order to uphold its mission to nurture and train the next generation of translational medical scientists. Students have come through connections with universities in the UK and abroad, from many institutions in the US and through the MGH Summer Research Trainee Program at the Center of Diversity and Inclusion. The summer of 2020 proved to be challenging for many reasons but, not least, because this was required to be a virtual experience. VIC was determined not to allow this restriction to diminish the commitment to, and the experience for, this year’s student cohort.
Katarina Ho from UCLA said, “I was so worried that I wouldn’t get the chance to work with all of the amazing scientists at VIC, but I am beyond grateful that VIC was able to take remote learning in stride and provide a remote internship”. And of the experience reflected that “I think the most important thing that I learned from my remote studentship at VIC was to expand my critical thinking. I think I was given more independence than a normal internship would normally allow and because of that I was able to troubleshoot by myself. I also now have a much stronger backbone in immunology, specifically vaccines and I also see how much work goes into preparing for the experiments rather than just having primers available to you and not thinking where they came from”.
Robby Shepard during his second summer internship from Colorado College stated that “My remote studentship at VIC allowed me to further develop my technological skills for data analysis, as well as develop a deeper understanding of how clinical research is conducted. The remote aspect of the studentship allowed me to foster confidence in my ability to analyze data and contribute to research as it was often done independently by the nature of remote work. In addition, by working on an ongoing research project, I was able to continue to grow my knowledge of immunology and vaccine development”
Rohan Prabhu from Boston University Academy commented that “The best thing I got out of my time at the lab is, without a doubt, the knowledge that resulted from surrounding myself with accomplished students and scientists. From advice about the MCATs to watching senior scientists gain acclaim and praise for publishing groundbreaking studies, everyone at VIC has been a role model in their endeavors. As a result, I am now much more driven and focused in my path to achieving my dream of a career in medicine”.
Anoushka Mahendra is at Buckingham Browne & Nicholls and plans to continue the experience of working with VIC during the school year. Of her experience she said that” One of the aspects of the VIC I have been lucky to experience is simply being able to surround myself, albeit virtually, with so many people who I view as role models…My experience here has come at a crucial time for me – I am heading into my senior year of high school, applying to universities, and deciding on programs and majors. I have been committed to studying medicine since primary school, but I am still figuring out what my interests are within the broad field of medicine. My work with Dr. Reeves at the VIC has cemented my passion for bioinformatics and immunology, and my conversations with Dr. Hart and interviewees continually inspire me to pursue clinical care.
Ella Gavin is a student at Noble & Greenough School and says that “Throughout my remote studentship at VIC, I worked with Dr. Patrick Reeves and his team, helping to develop the second vaccine construct. I spent the majority of my time on the data wrangling side of things”. “The remote studentship at VIC was overall an incredible experience, as I gained exposure to a number of topics in the medical research field. As time progressed, I developed a better understanding of immunology as a whole… And I even had the chance to practice preparing for and giving presentations. All of the experiences will be a huge help to me throughout my education, and later, career.”
Emily Hill from Emory & Henry was concerned about her summer internship plans and said that “The shutdowns starting in April definitely put a halt to my summer plans and a huge question mark over whether I would be able to participate in any kind of research. Thankfully enough, the individuals at VIC were on top of things, and I was lucky enough to participate in data analysis for the Sirbulescu lab this summer. Under Dr. Sirbulescu, I learned about the capabilities and inner workings of the technique of mass cytometry (CyTOF). I was able to help document a proper core panel for the technique as well as analyze some preliminary titration data for an experimental amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) treatment…. The remote research was honestly a great experience and I would not change anything about it”.

COVID-19 infections trouble ships as companies try pandemic cruising in Europe, Tahiti

Michael Callahan, MD, Director, Clinical Translation at VIC, was deployed to cruise ships to provide emergency medical help during the COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the year and is now assisting with advice on continuity of business. The cruise ship articles in the Miami Herald, of which this is the latest, prompted a WHO Working Group to reduce international spread to which Michael has been invited.