Five Ways UT Southwestern Medical Center is Fighting COVID

Dave Moore, Staff Writer

While most of the world shifted to home-based work to avoid COVID-19, virus researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center stayed on-site, and amped up both their lab and data work to fight and defeat the virus, said Claire Aldridge, Associate Vice President of Commercialization and Business Development at UTSW.

Claire Aldridge, UTSW

“Even while our campus shut down, we kept the COVID research going,” Aldridge said. “So any scientists who were working on COVID, we provided a safe place for them to continue that… research.”

In the June 25 virtual meeting of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Innovation Taskforce, Aldridge described five key works ranging from testing the efficacy of existing pharmaceutical treatments, to conducting largescale testing to identify the prevalence of COVID in the region’s population:

      • UTSW researchers are testing the effectiveness of convalescent COVID patient plasma on reducing the virus’ impact.

“Convalescent plasma is plasma taken from a patient who has cleared the disease,” Aldridge said. “You’re trying to take their antibodies and give them to a new patient. We know they’re already doing it with severely ill patients in ICUs. But we’re taking it a step further, saying, if we give a patient with mild symptoms in the hospital convalescent plasma, who could recover at home? … Can we shorten the duration of the illness, or lessen the severity of the illness?”

      • Roughly 1,000 members of Dallas’ fire and rescue first responders are being tested by UTSW for COVID and for its antibodies.

“Antibody production could tell us whether they were infected prior to being tested,” she said. “That data should be coming out in the next few weeks, and we’ll have an understanding of how many of our first responders were exposed.”

      • With assistance from UTSW, another 45,000 individuals from Dallas and Tarrant counties will be tested for COVID to determine the prevalence of the virus in the region.

“This will allow us to look across the area to see if we can identify hot spots,” Aldridge said. “We’ll see if we can get data to allow us to identify them sooner and maybe lessen their impact.”

      • UT Southwestern has teamed up with Texas Health Resources and Parkland Hospital to analyze electronic medical records for indicators that might predict whether a patient will suffer more severely from COVID.

“We’re doing a lot of work with data mining and machine learning,” she said. “We’ve got a couple projects along those lines.”

      • UTSW is taking part in at least two national clinical trials relating to drugs to treat COVID.

“We’re also doing some of the national clinical trials with the drugs you hear about, such as remdesivir and the anti-IL-6” inhibitors, Aldridge said.