MIT School of Science contributes to the study of Covid-19
In March 2020, in response to the rising threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, MIT suspended its on-campus instruction and moved to remote learning. MIT’s leadership focused on preserving the academic continuity for MIT students while coalescing the expertise of our researchers to address the pandemic. In the MIT School of Science, many researchers refocused their priorities to address Covid-19 investigations and have actively sought out collaborations to develop innovative solutions.
The MIT School of Science has played a pivotal role in researching the virus' basic biology and potential vaccine treatments. Our researchers have also pursued the development of rapid testing and diagnosis, while addressing the pandemic's socioeconomic impact on our mental health and on the planet.
Adapting to COVID, keeping connected
Visit now.mit.edu for all the latest updates on policies and procedures. MIT is asking its community to: - Stand with the Science (Be informed by expertise and grounded in science as we jointly seek to meet this moment.) - Work the Problem (Follow the MIT policies, practices, and protocols designed to protect ourselves and others from Covid.) - Model the Solution (Join us in modeling solutions as we do our part to stop the spread – at MIT and beyond.)
MIT School of Science discoveries that enabled RNA vaccines for Covid-19
3Q with Phillip Sharp
The mRNA vaccine story begins with Institute Professor Phillip A. Sharp’s discovery of split genes and spliced RNA that took place at MIT in the 1970s — a discovery that would earn him the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Sharp comments on the long arc of scientific research that has led to this groundbreaking, rapid vaccine development — and looks ahead to what the future might hold for mRNA technology.
Quote from Mei Hong, an MIT chemistry professor from "MIT researchers uncover molecular structure of a protein found in COVID-19" in the The Boston Globe
“Our findings could be useful for medicinal chemists to design alternative small molecules that target this channel with high affinity.”
Mei Hong, an MIT chemistry professor
from "MIT researchers uncover molecular structure of a protein found in COVID-19" in the The Boston Globe
CRISPR COVID test
CRISPR comes to COVID: a pandemic pivot and the push for a simple coronavirus test
MIT professor and Sherlock Biosciences co-founder Jim Collins predicts rapid progress on that front from a new technology — called “INSPECTR” — that would use synthetic biology methods to make a test on a simple paper strip. "In a matter of a small number of months," Collins says, the company "will be in a position to introduce an INSPECTR-based test for COVID-19."
School of Science staff members recognized for extraordinary efforts during the Coronavirus crisis.
In the School of Science, many staff members have donned capes that many do not even realize they have put on. But their peers have noticed. These heroes’ extraordinary efforts have helped make the transition during COVID-19 easier for their colleagues and work groups at MIT. The School of Science would like to recognize several staff members wearing capes, nominated for being a COVID-19 hero. Teamwork is essential for ensuring the school runs as smoothly as possible given the unusual circumstances. Despite physical distancing, it is rewarding to see the MIT community uniting to support each other.
MIT never stops moving
The MIT community fights Covid-19 -- including researchers in the School of Science working on prevention, treatment, and impact of the disease.
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Quote from Feng Zhang, Professor in BCS, McGovern Institute, Broad Institute New York Times
"We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run."
Feng Zhang, Professor in BCS, McGovern Institute, Broad Institute
New York Times
How could Covid-19 and the body’s immune response affect the brain?
Though the most immediately threatening symptoms of Covid-19 are respiratory, neuroscientists are intently studying the pandemic from the perspective of the central nervous system. Clinical research and case reports provide mounting evidence of impacts on the brain.
Quote from Alex K. Shalek, Professor of Chemistry Researchers identify cells likely targeted by Covid-19 virus
“Even though these datasets weren’t designed specifically to study Covid, it’s hopefully given us a jump start on identifying some of the things that might be relevant there.”
Alex K. Shalek, Professor of Chemistry
Researchers identify cells likely targeted by Covid-19 virus
Computational thinking class enables students to engage in COVID-19 response
Nearly 300 students join an open course that applies data science, artificial intelligence, and mathematical modeling using the Julia language to study COVID-19. “Everyone at MIT wants to contribute,” says Department of Mathematics Professor Alan Edelman. “While we at the Julia Lab are doing research in building tools for scientists, Dave and I thought it would be valuable to teach the students about some of the fundamentals related to computation for drug development, disease models, and such.”
Neuroscientist on the frontlines
Covid-19 calls Picower physician-scientist to assume another role: Front-line respiratory care
As both a neurologist who sees patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Picower Clinical Fellow conducting Alzheimer’s disease clinical studies at MIT, Dr. Diane Chan already has two demanding jobs. But as eastern New England’s need for Coronavirus care surged in late March, she volunteered to take on a third by joining the first wave of non-Internal Medicine doctors to be trained to evaluate patients in MGH’s respiratory illness clinics. “I’m grateful that I have skills to contribute during this time when the hospital needs our help and patients need our help,” Chan says.
Quote from Whitehead Institute Postdoc Izabella Pena Myth-busting on YouTube
“We are living a hard time, where science and education are constantly under attack. As scientists, we need to help inform people with accurate and life-saving information."
Whitehead Institute Postdoc Izabella Pena
Myth-busting on YouTube
MIT scientists explain the current state of COVID-19 testing, and how a CRISPR tool may help solve the supply problem.
Q: What kind of COVID-19 test are you developing now? A: We are working on a nucleic acid-based test that does not require complex instrumentation, rapidly returns results (with a goal of under one hour), and can be performed at a point-of-care location without trained professionals. We hope to accomplish this using a combination of techniques. First, we are incorporating isothermal amplification technologies, which, unlike current PCR-based tests, do not require intricate heating and cooling to operate. We are combining this with our CRISPR-based diagnostics, allowing for sensitive detection and readout in a simple visual format, akin to a pregnancy test. We hope that this test will significantly lower the barrier for accurate diagnosis and provide another approach for COVID-19 surveillance.
Quote from Rebecca Saxe, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT Wall Street Journal
"Right now the normal way to fulfill that need for connection is not available, so we are all getting creative about new ways to connect."
Rebecca Saxe, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT
Wall Street Journal
An experimental peptide could block Covid-19
In hopes of developing a possible treatment for Covid-19, a team of MIT chemists has designed a drug candidate that they believe may block coronaviruses’ ability to enter human cells. The MIT team reported its initial findings in a preprint posted on bioRxiv, an online preprint server, on March 20. They have sent samples of the peptide to collaborators who plan to carry out tests in human cells.
Repurposing drugs to treat COVID-19 patients
A stopgap measure to treat respiratory distress
“If this were to work, which I hope it will, it could potentially be scaled up very quickly, because every hospital already has it in their pharmacy,” says Michael Yaffe, a David H. Koch Professor of Science at MIT. “We don’t have to make a new drug, and we don’t have to do the same kind of testing that you would have to do with a new agent. This is a drug that we already use. We’re just trying to repurpose it.”