Funding will deepen research on the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in LongCOVID patients and launch new clinical trials 

Medford MA, February 22, 2024 – PolyBio Research Foundation, a global collaboration convening the world’s leading chronic disease scientists, today announced the second phase of its LongCovid Research Consortium (LCRC), including the distribution of $15M to fund scientific research, treatment innovation, and clinical trials for LongCOVID. 

Founded and run by scientists with expertise in microbiology and neuroscience, PolyBio connects the world’s leading researchers in order to rapidly and openly study core biological drivers of LongCOVID. Over a dozen institutions globally participate, including Harvard Medical School, University of Pennsylvania, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Yale School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), the J. Craig Venter Institute, and the Karolinska Institutet among others. 

PolyBio research on persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the tissue of LongCOVID patients, covered in preeminent science journals such as Nature, is a key insight directing investments in research, treatment, and clinical trials for LongCOVID. 

“The fact that every new SARS-CoV-2 infection may have the potential to become chronic and cause devastating illness is perhaps the single most concerning aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Amy Proal, President of PolyBio. “Only by working rapidly and collaboratively can we truly determine how to prevent and treat SARS-CoV-2 persistence.”

With its new phase of research initiatives, PolyBio adds preeminent scientists to its consortium, including Dr. Morgane Bomsel, Research Director at the Cochin Institute in Paris; Dr. Petter Brodin, Professor of Pediatric Immunology, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Imperial College London; and Dr. Chiara Giannarelli, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine. These scientists boast decades of collective experience studying infectious and immune disease processes. Their participation expands the consortium‘s international reach, with the addition of research teams based in France, the UK, and Sweden to LCRC. 

In distributing its second round of funds, PolyBio will invest in deepening research on viral persistence in LongCOVID patients, including funding $2.1M at University of Pennsylvania and $1.3M at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet to examine SARS-CoV-2 in the gut. “The gut appears to be a primary site of SARS-CoV-2 reservoirs in at least a subset of LongCOVID patients. Persistence of the virus in the gut is one of the biggest leads in the space,” says Dr. Sara Cherry, the John W. Eckman Professor of Medical Science in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, whose team is working to identify combinations of drugs that can eliminate virus in gut tissue. 

PolyBio will also fund scientists at UCSF to launch the world’s first program to collect comprehensive tissue samples – including from the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the gut lining – from LongCOVID patients, providing an expansive view of viral persistence. Borrowing from research methods that were foundational to UCSF-driven breakthroughs in HIV research, the team will analyze samples for SARS-CoV-2. “The UCSF team contains people who helped make HIV/AIDS a treatable disease. These researchers rapidly pivoted into LongCOVID research at the outset of the pandemic, leveraging years of experience performing similar research on patients with HIV/AIDS,” says PolyBio President Proal. “It is incredible that the same expertise is now hyper-focused on solving LongCOVID.” 

PolyBio is unique in the level of partnership and data sharing it facilitates among scientists. For example, LongCOVID gut tissue samples analyzed at the University of Pennsylvania will be provided by teams at UCSF and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai through PolyBio’s research consortium. “Close collaboration and sharing of samples among LongCOVID teams will help us find answers for patients more quickly,” says Dr. E. John Wherry, the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President’s Distinguished Professor and chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

PolyBio is also directing funds to research connections between LongCOVID and other health conditions, including neurodegenerative disease. This research is informed by studies finding increased risk for new Alzheimer’s diagnosis for older adults within a year after acute COVID-19 and increased Alzheimer’s plaque deposits in brain tissue from severely ill COVID-19 patients younger than 60 years old. In addition, PolyBio funding will enable UCSF scientists and a team at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine to examine if the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in tissue contributes to cardiovascular disease. 

Reflecting its strong connection to patients, PolyBio’s second phase of projects also includes funding for clinical trials to evaluate the impact of HIV antivirals on LongCOVID, a top priority of patients. “If HIV antivirals have a positive impact on LongCOVID, the ability to improve the lives of patients is that much closer at hand, as these drugs are affordable and safety tested,” says Dr. David Putrino, who serves as the Nash Family Director of Mount Sinai’s Cohen Center for Recovery From Complex Chronic Illnesses (CoRE), which will direct the clinical trials. 

“We’ve been waiting so long for hard-hitting clinical trials targeting the root causes of this disease,” says Christy Collins who, like 18 million patients globally, suffers from LongCOVID. ”We are grateful to PolyBio and the dozens of scientists from institutions around the world teaming up to advance treatment progress for LongCOVID patients.”

About PolyBio Research Foundation & the LongCovid Research Consortium (LCRC)

 PolyBio Research Foundation is a 501(c)3 transforming how complex chronic conditions like LongCOVID, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), and LongLyme disease are studied, diagnosed, and treated. PolyBio conceptualizes research projects that identify root cause drivers of chronic conditions and builds collaborative teams to make the projects a reality. The LongCovid Research Consortium (LCRC), an initiative of PolyBio, is a global scientific collaboration to rapidly and openly study core biological drivers of LongCOVID and channel insights to treatment innovation and clinical trials. The collaboration includes scientists and clinicians sharing ideas and samples across dozens of different institutions, laboratories, and clinics. PolyBio and the LCRC are supported by numerous donors including Kanro – a philanthropic fund to support open source scientific research established by Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum.