Boston Children’s Leads IMPACC Study Investigating How COVID-19 Impacts Immune Responses Over Time

Boston Children’s Leads IMPACC Study Investigating How COVID-19 Impacts Immune Responses Over Time

Boston Children’s Hospital is leading the new IMPACC (IMmunoPhenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort) study investigating the potential impacts of COVID-19-based hospitalization to the human immune system. The investigators specifically seek to better understand how the immune system of patients that were hospitalized with SARS-CoV-2 respond to the disease over time.

IMPACC Context

This study group was developed through the Human Immunology Project Consortium (HIPC), a research consortium funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to learn more about the human body’s immune response to infections. With ten HIPC centers nationwide, the Boston team is led by Boston Children’s Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, director of the Precision Vaccines Program (PVP).

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) will serve as lead site, enrolling participants for the Boston-area study. Led by Lindsey Baden, MD, MMSc, the BWH team will send the samples to Boston Children’s.

The Study

Including up to 2,000 patients from 10 to 12 medical centers across the country, the HIPC study designers want to understand how to guide new strategies for diagnosing and treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly identify new targets for drug treatment. The study participants will center on hospitalized patients 18 years and older with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The team will collect samples from nasal swabs and blood/fluid samples from the trachea at ten different times from hospital admission to up to one year after hospital discharge.

Ventilator Scenarios

When patients do require ventilators for breathing support, investigators will seek to examine lower airway secretions collected from patients. In total, the study seeks to collect and analyze up to 200,000 samples.

Biomarkers & Long-term Implications on Health

The investigators hope to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the body; importantly, as well as what biomarkers may foretell outcomes from the disease and how the pathogen impacted patients post recovery.

Coordinating National Data

The up to 200,000 collected biosamples will be linked to a clinical database that includes patient age, sex, medication use, medical history, and other patient details. The IMPACC Clinical & Data Coordinating Center(CDCC), located at Boston Children’s Hospital, is led by Al Ozonoff. The CDCC will collect, manage, and analyze data from the bank of nationwide samples under Ozonoff and CDCC Computing Lead Joann Arce, PhD. Importantly, the researchers seek to understand any correlations or associations between COVID-19 disease clinical aspects and the immune system, reports Ozonoff. Moreover, the team seeks to identify biomarkers and/or molecules that could possibly lead to predictions of disease severity and suggest patient outcomes.

Protein & Metabolism Studies                                          

Boston Children’s Precision Vaccines Program serves as the Proteomics and Metabolomics Core (PMC) of the IMPACC study. The PMC’s team will analyze small amounts of blood plasma from each patient to measure the proteins and metabolites to track how they change over the course of the COVID-19 infection. Hanno Steen, PhD (Boston Children’s) and Naama Kanarek, PhD (Boston Children’s) will lead the PMC. Steen reports that the investors are targeting discovery of insights into the influences of the virus on blood proteins and metabolites—“crucial for the regulation and modulation of the immune system and response to the virus” reports Steen. Insight such as this could help the investigators understand whether the antibodies develop at different velocities. For example—could those that face more severe symptoms produce less antibodies at a slower rate?

Immune Function & COVID-19

Led by Kinga Smolen PhD, of the PVP, the team will apply specialized immunologic assays to blood plasma and white blood cells in an effort to discover how the immune system responds to COVID-19. How well do patient’s immune systems adapt during and after infection clears? As Smolen noted in the recent Boston Children’s Hospital Discoveries news release, “such information can then be used to develop immune-based approaches to prevent and treat COVID-19.”

Lead Research/Investigator(s)

Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, director of the Precision Vaccines Program (PVP); Principal Investigator IMPACC site at Boston Children’s

Al Ozonoff, PhD, CPPS, Faculty Scientist, Division of Infectious Diseases; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Joann Arce, PhD, Research Fellow in Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital

Kinga Smolen, PhD, Research Associate in Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital

Lindsey Baden, MD, MMSc Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Hanno Steen, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital

Naama Kanarek, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital

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