Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students are set to be part of what’s been identified as the nation's largest serological testing study for COVID-19 antibodies.
OUWB medical students to help with nation’s largest COVID-19 antibody study
Researchers working in Beaumont's biobank
Beaumont Health’s Research Institute is launching America’s largest serological testing study to help answer many questions surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and potentially help treat patients battling the virus.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students are set to be part of what’s been identified as the nation's largest serological testing study for COVID-19 antibodies.

The COVID-19 Serology Research Project is happening at Beaumont Health.

All of Beaumont’s 38,000 employees and providers will be asked to participate in a study examining antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, said Richard Kennedy, Ph.D., vice president for Research and director of the Beaumont Research Institute.

Findings will help answer many questions surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and potentially help treat patients battling the virus, said Kennedy, who also serves as OUWB’s associate dean of Research and professor of Foundational Medical Studies.

Related:

COVID-19: LATEST UPDATES FROM OAKLAND UNIVERSITY

CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION FOR THE OUWB COMMUNITY

Medical students from OUWB volunteer at regional COVID-19 testing site in Detroit

OUWB ON THE FRONTLINE: MEDICAL SCHOOL STUDENTS, ALUMNI, FACULTY BATTLE COVID-19

FLATTENING THE CURVE: OUWB EXPERTS EXPLAIN HOW NOVEL CORONAVIRUS CAN BE STOPPED

(VIDEO) OUWB MEDICAL STUDENTS HELP SET UP FOOD DISTRIBUTION CENTER DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

OUWB PROFESSOR DEFENDS LIFE-AND-DEATH DECISIONS RELATED TO COVID-19 IN WALL STREET JOURNAL

MEDICAL STUDENTS FROM OUWB VOLUNTEER TO HELP COMMUNITY DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

OUWB MEDICAL STUDENTS VOLUNTEER TO BABYSIT CHILDREN OF BEAUMONT DOCS TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK FORCES OUWB MEDICAL STUDENTS TO EMBRACE 'NEW NORMAL' IN LEARNING

"In addition to answering key questions on infection spread and the percentage of total asymptomatic cases in a community, we intend to relieve anxiety through a better understanding of the spread of the infection across Beaumont Health," said Kennedy.

Serological blood testing detects antibodies that the body creates to fight an infection. In the case of COVID-19, antibodies might develop as soon as three to six days after infection. Even after the recovery from COVID-19, antibodies remain. In many other infections, antibodies offer immunity against reinfection. The study will begin to answer whether COVID-19 antibodies offer protection post infection and for what duration.

In addition, Beaumont's serological testing study will identify employees who have COVID-19 antibodies yet never experienced or reported any symptoms.

That’s important because as many as 25 to 50 percent of people with COVID-19 might not show symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, those individuals could still spread the disease to others.

In the COVID-19 antibody study, OUWB medical students will help with processing of serum specimens and data entry in the biobank.  This serum will be stored after the original serology testing to support future research.

Although this role initially involves technical processing of serum samples, there may be future opportunities for students to participate in the analysis of research data generated in the effort.  

Kennedy said he is “extremely proud” of the way OUWB medical students stepped up to get involved with the project.

“We needed four to eight volunteers and within 24 hours we had more than two dozen students contact us and offer to assist in the project,” he said.

Kennedy said the fact that the students are volunteering on their own accord, and own time, is particularly impressive.

He said it’s important to note that those working in the lab will be fully protected with personal protective equipment (PPE).

The experience should be valuable for the medical students, he said.

“Even though they’re going to be in the biobank, they’re going to be in the health care system, and they’re going to be aware of how the health system has to manage its workforce in order to keep employees healthy — including many who are on the frontlines,” he said.

Two other OUWB clinical faculty professors from Beaumont are involved in the project.

Immunologist Gabriel Maine, M.D. — also an associate professor of Pathology at OUWB — led Beaumont’s work to self-validate its COVID-19 serological tests (as authorized by the FDA).

The study's principal investigator will be Beaumont's Director of Infectious Disease Research Matthew Sims, M.D., Ph.D., who is also a professor of Internal Medicine at OUWB.

"I believe having antibodies against COVID-19 will protect people from getting infected again and so do many other physicians,” said Sims. “In Germany, there is a plan to give people ‘immunity passports’ if they can show they have antibodies to help them get back to work. This study will help prove that antibodies protect those who have them. It is our hope that this study provides a template for others to conduct similar research that will collectively clarify many unknowns of COVID-19.”

OUWB students interested in volunteering are urged to contact Barb Pruetz, manager, Beaumont Research Institute Biobank at barbara.pruetz@beaumont.org or 586-295-8309.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

Follow OUWB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine as the original creator and include a link to this article.