Specimen Processing Case Study

Gaining Insights Into SARS-CoV-2 Immune Responses

CovidWatch is a longitudinal surveillance study of adults in the Seattle area who are at high risk of SARS-CoV-2 acquisition, led by Drs. Michael Boeckh and Alpana Waghmare of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the University of Washington. The study aims to:

  1. Estimate and monitor infection rates in high-risk individuals
  2. Determine the kinetics of anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune responses (both humoral and cellular) and the role of pre-existing immunity
  3. Identify host genomic factors and immune response signatures that correlate with SARS-Co-V-2 acquisition and disease severity
  4. Investigate whether individuals can be re-infected by SARS-CoV-2, whether by the same viral genotype or strain or by another, and how infection with other respiratory pathogens affects SARS-CoV-2 and vice versa.

The Challenge

Both the public health situation and information about the coronavirus evolved rapidly during the first months of the pandemic. So getting COVIDWatch running required flexibility from the investigators to augment their study as needed to capture new data. The large number of participants and the need for extra safety measures also presented a slate of logistical challenges in bringing the study online.

The Approach

The Specimen Processing & Research Cell Bank shared resource was available to help the COVIDWatch team overcome one of their challenges stemming from the rapid accrual onto the study. Each of the many participants in the study donated a large volume of blood to the research. The core's specimen processing team processed the majority of these large samples, at a rate as high as 10 per day during the busiest phases of enrollment.

Coronavirus close-up
A close-up rendering of SARS-CoV-2 Graphic courtesy of Getty Images

The Outcome

Thanks to the core’s nimbleness and expertise, the COVIDWatch team was able to bring participants onto this ongoing study quickly and efficiently. The researchers look forward to gaining new insights about SARS-CoV-2 immunity from their data that inform the next phases of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

pull quote photo

“The Specimen Processing Lab has been invaluable in getting our study up and going quickly and efficiently. We really appreciated their flexibility and willingness to work with us during a dynamic time.”

— Dr. Alpana Waghmere, associate, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutch; assistant professor, University of Washington Department of Pediatrics; and principal investigator, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children’s Research Institute