IRP’s Diana Bianchi Honored for Leading Pediatric COVID Response
Monday, August 29, 2022
When the first reports of COVID-19 came out, infectious disease experts and healthcare providers thought children might be spared its most dire effects. After all, the news reports and health statistics showed that nearly all serious cases occurred in the elderly, people with certain pre-existing conditions, and those who spent their days and nights caring for COVID patients. However, as case counts rose and disruptions in daily life grew, the medical and psychological effects of COVID on children became apparent — and the impact was alarming. It soon became clear that something had to be done to understand the disease's effects on infants, children and teens, as well as pregnant women and traditionally underserved communities.
It was, appropriately, Mother’s Day when then-NIH Director Francis Collins sought help from Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and a senior investigator in the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). An expert in infant health and genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Dr. Bianchi was just the person to initiate large-scale studies across the country to assess the severity of COVID in specific populations, the safety and efficacy of vaccination and treatment, and the impact of mitigation efforts such as masking. For this critical leadership, Dr. Bianchi was named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for COVID-19 Response.
Government Awards Recognize H. Clifford Lane’s Four Decades of Research Achievements
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
The remarkable career of H. Clifford Lane, M.D., might have gone very differently if a NIH scientist hadn’t accidentally eavesdropped on Dr. Lane’s conversation with a colleague in 1979. After hearing Dr. Lane mention that he had missed the deadline to apply for a position at NIH, the NIH researcher made some calls and discovered a spot there had just opened up — one that was perfect for Dr. Lane, who would spend the ensuing decades conducting life-saving research to understand and combat some of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases.
Now the Clinical Director at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), Dr. Lane has been named a finalist for the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals’ Career Achievement Award in recognition of his crucial contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID-19, and other illnesses. Also known as the “Sammies,” the awards recognize federal employees who are “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges, and getting results.”
Study Reveals Medications Associated With Lower Odds of Severe Infection
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Many researchers studying COVID-19 have spent the past two years poring over test tubes and isolated cells. However, large troves of data about people’s interactions with the healthcare system can also be a rich source of useful insights. Using one such database, IRP researchers found that older adults taking certain medications were less likely to catch COVID or experience severe repercussions from the virus.
Many NIH Labs Remain Focused on COVID Research
Monday, February 14, 2022
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, IRP researchers have been hard at work learning about the virus and developing ways to prevent and treat infections. That research remains as important as ever, particularly as the new Omicron variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly.
Fortunately, NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC) has been providing IRP scientists with millions of dollars to support their research on the pandemic virus, known as SARS-CoV-2. Last week, the “I Am Intramural” blog discussed ITAC-funded efforts to learn about the biology of the virus and how it affects the body. This week, we’ll look at IRP projects focused on ways to track, treat, and prevent infections.
COVID-19 Research at NIH Show No Signs of Slowing
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
It’s been more than two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in China. During that time, amazing scientific advances have dramatically altered prevention and treatment for the illness, including the development of remarkably safe and effective vaccines. However, even with widespread vaccination, scientists predict that the disease will continue to circulate in society indefinitely, with seasonal ebbs and flows like the flu.
As a result, even as COVID-19 vaccine shots rolled out by the hundreds of millions, numerous IRP researchers continued studying the disease and the virus responsible for it. Many of these projects have been funded by the NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC), an initiative that provides IRP researchers with funding for research related to COVID-19. Over the past year and a half, ITAC has provided more than $12 million to support a wide variety of projects — more than can be covered in just one blog post. Read on to learn about just a handful of the many ways IRP researchers are contributing to the fight against COVID-19, and stay tuned next week for another blog describing even more ITAC-funded COVID research.
Pair Leads Public Health Efforts Focused on Underserved Communities
Monday, November 8, 2021
In the spring of 2020, as the U.S. government implemented public health measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became clear that people in Black, Latino, and American Indian communities were significantly more likely to be hospitalized or die from the new disease than White, non-Hispanic Americans. While the work many scientists did to understand the virus and devise vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments made the news regularly, efforts to study and address racial disparities in COVID-19’s impacts were equally important.
When called to lead efforts to shrink those gaps, Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., and Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., rose to the challenge. The two IRP investigators, who respectively lead the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), helped direct two federal programs dedicated to providing underserved communities with information about, and access to, COVID-19 testing, clinical trials, and vaccines. In recognition of their life-saving work, Drs. Gibbons and Pérez-Stable have been awarded the COVID-19 Response Medal, a special honor bestowed this year as part of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Also known as the “Sammies,” these annual awards recognize and celebrate exceptional work by government employees
Dr. Alberto D. López-Muñoz Pivots to New Research Focus Amidst Pandemic
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Like all virologists, IRP postdoctoral fellow Alberto D. López-Muñoz, Ph.D., knew a global pandemic was sadly inevitable. No one could predict exactly when, but it was just a matter of time until a novel virus would make its way around the globe. Nevertheless, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, even Dr. López-Muñoz was surprised by how rapidly his career transformed as he switched gears study the novel contagion.
Marie A. Bernard Leads NIH Efforts to Recruit “Great Minds That Think Differently”
Monday, September 20, 2021
The summer of 2020 will likely be remembered as a turning point in America. The murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color brought the simmering scourge of racism and race-related disparities to the center of public debate and convinced many Americans that something needs to be done.
The biomedical research enterprise has long dealt with its own inequities as well, including outright discrimination against people from certain groups. As a result, a top priority of the National Institutes of Health is to bring greater equity to the scientific and medical workforce and the patients and communities it serves. In her new role as NIH’s Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD), Marie A. Bernard, M.D., has big plans to push the needle further towards reaching that goal.
Budding Scientists Present Their Research During Three-Day Virtual Event
Monday, August 30, 2021
Although NIH’s 2021 Summer Internship Program (SIP) was fully virtual this year, that didn’t stop the hundreds of participating high school, college, and graduate students from contributing to a variety of important IRP research projects. More than 500 students who worked in NIH labs this summer presented their work during this year’s Summer Presentation Week, which took place August 3-5.
I sifted through the lengthy list of presenters at the event and spoke with a diverse group of young men and women who spent their summers expanding our knowledge of human health and biology. Read on to learn about these promising future scientists and doctors and the research they completed this summer.
IRP Research Highlights a Novel Target to Stop Viral Infections
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
On July 28, health providers, researchers, patients, advocates, and governments across the globe observe World Hepatitis Day. Like this year’s theme, ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait,’ IRP researchers are wasting no time utilizing the unique resources at the National Institutes of Health to identify innovative ways to combat the virus.
IRP Distinguished Investigator T. Jake Liang, M.D., for example, has focused his life’s work on understanding how hepatitis viruses infect, replicate, and persist in cells. The viruses he studies, hepatitis B and C, together affect more than 10 percent of the worlds’ population and are the most common causes of chronic liver disease and liver cancer. The two viruses were originally discovered in the 1980s by another IRP scientist, Harvey J. Alter, M.D., who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for that work in 2020. Nearly three decades later, Dr. Liang’s lab at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) worked with scientists at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to develop a novel test to screen thousands of molecules using a technology called high-throughput screening, which led to the discovery of several compounds with the potential to block hepatitis C infection.