Since the novel coronavirus was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March, tech companies have taken various steps to attempt to help in combating the spread of the disease. Microsoft has taken a number of steps in this regard in the past couple of months, committing tech and cloud support for front-line non-profits, helping out small businesses, and more recently, assisting the NHS in utilizing its Teams service to obtain test results in a quicker fashion.
Now, Microsoft has announced a new virtual clinical study in collaboration with Adaptive Biotechnologies to study the immune response to COVID-19 more closely, and consequently, improve diagnostics to make testing more reliable.
Dubbed ImmuneRACE, the study will include 1000 coronavirus-diagnosed patients from select metropolitan sites in the United States, aged from 18 to 89. Essentially, those who get selected for this study will be required to fill an online questionnaire regarding symptoms, diagnostic tests already performed, medical history, and more. After that, a mobile phlebotomist will visit their homes to collect blood samples and nose/throat swabs, which will ultimately be used to gain vital information in regards to how the immune system responds to the disease. Participants will also receive $50 gift cards for their role in this study.
The data that is obtained from this program will be made freely available to the health and academic industry in order to potentially help discover solutions to the pandemic. The role of T cells will especially be focused upon during the testing, since these are considered a necessary component in terms of early response toward combating the infection. It is hoped that the mapping of T cells' response to other specific diseases will also help in decoding its role in resisting COVID-19.
Image via Adaptive Biotechnologies (YouTube)
Peter Lee, CVP of AI and Research at Microsoft, commented on this initiative in the following manner:
"We are dedicated to being part of the solution against COVID-19. Immune response data may augment what we have been learning to date to help determine who is at greater risk of developing more severe symptoms and may help with future containment efforts. Anyone who has been affected by COVID-19 holds key information that can help contain and manage the virus."
Notably, this isn't the first time Microsoft and Adaptive Biotechnologies have collaborated to decode the immune system. The firms are also joined by other companies including Illumina, Providence, and LabCorp in this combined initiative to help find a solution to the pandemic.