NEW YORK – Biogen, the Broad Institute, and Partners HealthCare have formed a consortium to build a COVID-19 biobank with samples from volunteer Biogen employees and their families, the partners said today.
The biobank will collect de-identified blood samples and medical data from volunteering Biogen employees who contracted and have recovered from COVID-19, as well as their family members and close contacts.
Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women's Hospital are coordinating the outreach and sample collection effort and the Broad Institute will generate data from the blood samples.
The biobank will provide medical and biological data to researchers studying the biology of the virus and working on vaccines and treatments. It will also store frozen samples from consented participants for future research. Biogen will have the same level of access as other researchers and will not have access to identifiable information.
According to the collaborators, this group of patients with a common exposure "will offer a valuable lens into why some people show signs of disease and others are asymptomatic" and help explain why severity of symptoms differs. Researchers also plan to examine blood samples from recovered patients to study neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and other aspects of their immune profile.
Several Biogen employees contracted COVID-19 after a company meeting in late February and were among the first coronavirus patients in Massachusetts. "The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very direct, very personal impact on our Biogen community," said Biogen Chief Medical Officer Maha Radhakrishnan in a statement. "We are uniquely positioned to contribute to advancing COVID-19 science in an organized and deliberate way so we can all gain a better understanding of this virus."
"Patients who have volunteered to donate data to accelerate the shared understanding of the disease play a crucial role in the global effort to overcome COVID-19. Through a shared biobank, researchers will be able to identify new patterns and drastically expand our knowledge of a disease," added Broad President Eric Lander.
"Through this collaboration with Biogen and their employees who have volunteered to share their information, we will be able to learn significantly more about the characteristics and development of this disease and make important discoveries that will lead to treatments for the patients we care for and those around the world," said Ravi Thadhani, chief academic officer at Partners HealthCare.