Covid-19 Update from Penn Medecine
This is an increasingly difficult time for our local Philadelphia community, as I know it is for each of you. Yet, with every struggle I see perseverance and compassion and the will to make our world better. I want you to join me in seeing this possibility, and so we will be reaching out to you regularly in the coming weeks – providing an inside view of how we are fighting the effects of COVID-19 and how you can become involved.
What is the most important thing I can do right now?
First and foremost, I hope you never forget that our mission is your health. Everything we do, every day, is for the health and welfare of our neighbors in the region, the nation, and around the world.
So, please: practice physical distancing and good hand-washing habits. As a highly informed group, please spread the message about the importance of mitigating this pandemic, so we can soon focus on the future. Be our advocate for good health as well as for our care teams and researchers.
How can we get more and better testing out?
One of the most important ways we can learn more about how the virus spreads, how it affects different populations, and how we can get back to work is develop multiple approaches to screening. Online gifts can be used immediately to expand our research and testing infrastructure and launch clinical trials.
Research at Penn is already underway to develop rapid diagnostic tests for use at home, in the clinic, and at points of entry.
We have developed testing for antibodies that fight COVID-19 to determine who has been exposed to the virus and who might be immune in the future.
How can we protect more people, including our health care teams?
Besides physical distancing, the most effective ways we have to keep the SARS-CoV-2 virus from causing illness are Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the rapid development and deployment of vaccines. That is, keeping the virus from getting in and, if it does, preventing it from causing disease.
You can make donations of PPE by mail and drop-off; click here for addresses and instructions for each of our hospitals.
When it comes to vaccines, our Center for Research on Coronavirus is taking multiple approaches to vaccine development: DNA vaccines; RNA-based vaccines; and gene-therapy based options. A gift made online to the Center provides immediate funds to accelerate their work into clinical trials.
How can we improve care and treatment?
The most important thing we need to do today is keep our other patients and care teams safe.
Behind the scenes at the Pavilion, dedicated construction crews are working around the clock to make 120 beds ready across our inpatient and Emergency floors. Near term we plan to use this unique resource to provide care for our sickest cancer patients. Online gifts can help us complete and equip these spaces so we can provide every patient with safe, optimal care.
We also need to take good care of our clinical teams who, like all of us, are facing challenges beyond the health risks of COVID-19. I hope you will join me in helping alleviate their financial stress by contributing to the COVID-19 Clinical Response Team Fund. You can even share words of encouragement and support.
Meanwhile, our researchers are looking for immediate and long-term options for effective treatment, so we can rely less on limited ICU beds and ventilators. On that front, our Center for Research on Coronavirus aims to move forward with:
- Expansion of antiviral screening for therapeutic targets, including existing FDA-approved drugs. This is a unique screening procedure using live virus in our special biosafety lab.
Investigating the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and the lung microbiome.
- Exploring gene therapy options using a new family of inactivated delivery viruses — recently identified by scientists at Penn — that replicate selectively in the human airway.
- Using computational methods, especially machine learning, to help researchers design molecules that precisely inhibit the virus from replicating.
- Studying the use of plasma collected from patients who have recovered from an infection with COVID-19, which can be processed and safely infused into patients who are critically ill with the disease.
How can I learn more about making a gift?
You can find more detail on how you can support these – and emerging – priorities here. And, as always, please visit pennmedicine.org/coronavirus for the latest information about visitation policies, patient appointments, our drive-through testing sites, and more. You can also call our toll-free coronavirus hotline at 833-983-1350.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our efforts – it will take all of us to end this pandemic. We look forward to keeping in touch and keeping you informed.
With Best Wishes for Good Health and My Deepest Appreciation,
J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Executive Vice President, University of Pennsylvania for the Health System
Dean, Perelman School of Medicine