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Geisinger involved in coronavirus research

Several clinical trials are happening all across the country to find treatment and prevention options.

DANVILLE, Pa. — Months into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States, and there are still so many questions. Researchers nationwide are looking for answers, including here at Geisinger Medical Center.

"We have people from very different backgrounds coming in from all levels of expertise as we try to pick the most meaningful studies for people in our population," said Dr. Paul Simonelli, chair of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Geisinger.

Dr. Simonelli says they've all learned a lot about COVID-19 the only way they could: on the fly.

"We're learning very rapidly, clinically, right, about what this disease can do. In some respects, it's like a lot of other serious diseases we manage. In others, it's really unique."

Geisinger researchers right now are involved in a range of clinical trials to find treatments for COVID-19. Some of those studies include the use of convalescent plasma—a plasma donation from someone who has had the virus. The idea behind it is their immunity can be passed along to someone else who has been infected.

Another of the studies surrounds something called neutralizing antibodies. Head of Pharmacy Innovations Eric Wright explains.

"This we're actually studying across a larger spectrum, even those who have not been infected but who are high risk, such as people in a household of a person who might have had COVID, actually treating those patients with antibodies and we're beginning to look at those studies," Wright said.

Wright also says Geisinger is interested in clinical trials on new drugs, as well as on existing drugs that work on viruses similar to COVID-19.

Michelle Meyer is an assistant professor of bioethics who helps make sure Geisinger is involved in a wide range of COVID-19 studies: adults and children, healthy people and those with underlying conditions, and for COVID-19 cases of all severity levels.

"We're taking a deliberate approach at Geisinger when we choose which studies we're able to field, to make sure the studies collectively address all sorts of needs," said Meyer.

Those researchers say they review literature and new data often, even daily. That's how fast the medical community is gathering new information about the virus, with the goal to find the best treatments or even preventions possible.