Tip Sheet: COVID-19 vaccines, SARS-CoV-2 mutations, shedding pandemic pounds – and nematode nerve cells

Summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news

SEATTLE —Feb. 4, 2021 —Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news with links for additional background and media contacts.

We are looking forward to the Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Meetings, to be held online Feb. 8-12. Read highlights of Fred Hutch research to be presented, including on COVID-19 and cancer and new insights on treating graft-vs.host-disease and other complications from transplantation.


COVID-19 vaccines

Building trust in safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines
As the U.S. grapples with the effort to distribute massive quantities of vaccine, the fundamental challenge is the more delicate task of persuading tens of millions of people it is safe to take it. Drs. Steve Pergam, Stephaun Wallace and Parth Shah share how they are building trust with their communities. Dr. Pergam also acknowledged on Twitter that one year had passed since the first U.S. COVID-19 diagnosis.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Vaccine optimization for COVID-19: Who to vaccinate first?
In the Feb. 3 of Science Advances, Dr. Laura Matrajt, an applied mathematician at Fred Hutch, published a study using mathematical models and optimization algorithms showing trade-offs between vaccinating populations who are at risk for more severe cases of COVID-19 and populations who are more likely to transmit the virus. The work originally appeared as a preprint over the summer. She also has a preprint on the potential value of mixed vaccination strategies (with some groups receiving a single dose and others receiving full dosage) for COVID-19. One of the goals of Matrajt’s work is to help policy makers plan appropriate public health interventions. Follow her on Twitter.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

COVID-19 and cancer

Cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines
Patients with cancer are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the immunocompromising nature of cancer treatments. Does that mean cancer patients should be first in line for their shot or last? Drs. Gary Lyman and Steven Pergam provide helpful guidance.
Media contact: media@fredhutch.org

CIBMTR study: Higher risk of dying of COVID-19 for blood and stem cell recipients
Dr. Neel Bhatt co-authored a paper published Jan. 20 in The Lancet Haematology showing outcomes of transplant patients who had COVID-19.The Center for International Blood and Marrow Research led the multi-site study with data from 318 patients. In a CIBMTR press release, the co-authors encouraged transplant patients to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are able. Follow Dr. Bhatt on Twitter.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

SARS-CoV-2 mutations

Prospective mapping of viral mutations that escape antibodies used to treat COVID-19
In the Jan. 25 online issue of Science, evolutionary biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom and his lab published a paper mapping SARS-CoV-2 mutations that escape therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. As new mutations of the virus appear, they can be checked for whether therapeutic antibodies will be impacted. Read more on Bloom’s Twitter thread.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org


HIV antibody trial results offer ‘proof of concept’
The HIV Vaccine Trials Network, headquartered at Fred Hutch, and its sister network, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, released results from the five-year Antibody Mediated Prevention study. Researchers found that the broadly neutralizing antibody VRC01 was effective at blocking some HIV infections, but it will likely take a combination of different and more potent proteins to block all strains of the virus. Fred Hutch virologist Dr. Larry Corey, protocol chair for the AMP study, shared the findings at the HIV Research for Prevention Conference.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Cancer prevention

Shed the pandemic pounds
Traditionally, the first month of the year is when many of us think purposefully about rebooting our health. This year? The combination of stress, loss and upheaval has some of us jumping off the wagon before even climbing on. Dr. Heather Greenlee encourages all to get more sleep, eat mostly plants, keep moving, and stay connected.
Media contact: media@fredhutch.org

Basic sciences

How to reroute a broken neural circuit
Fred Hutch neuroscientist Dr. Jihong Bai explains why he studies tiny worms called nematodes. His work focuses on molecular connections, called electrical synapses, that pass electrical impulses between neurons without relying on a chemical intermediate.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

Other notable news

Could bacterial enzymes drive cancer formation by directly modifying human DNA?

New awards to spur innovation, commercialization in life sciences research

Working from home and showing the Heart of the Hutch

Science Says virtual event: Progress on the Pandemic: A year of tackling COVID-19


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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.