Long COVID Research Initiative Forms to Target Root Cause of Lingering Virus – BioSpace

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Published: Sep 08, 2022 By Alex Keown

Long COVID-19
With more than $15 million in funding, a collaborative team of scientists formed The Long COVID Research Initiative to study and treat those battling the long-term effects of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. 
The new organization includes a research team focusing on tissue biopsy studies, blood-based biomarker studies and research into downstream consequences. The group intends to build on its research and ultimately identify a therapeutics pipeline that LCRI will position in clinical trials. 
Due to the lingering effects of Long COVID, the initiative estimates the economic impact of the disease on the United States alone is more than $386 billion. A report from the Brookings Institute states Long Covid has also led to a 15% labor shortage in the United States due to worker absenteeism. 
In its announcement, the LCRI team said research shows that because patients with Long COVID are unable to clear the virus from their bodies, this leads to downstream consequences like blood clots, neuroinflammation and neuropathy.
Symptoms associated with Long COVID are widespread and can include fatigue, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, chest pain, headaches and poor sleeping. Additionally, Long COVID is associated with cognitive concerns such as brain fog and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. BioSpace previously noted hair loss and loss of sex drive are also symptoms now associated with Long COVID. 
Currently, no designated research program focuses explicitly on viral reservoirs in Long COVID. The organization noted in its announcement that there are also no clinical trials focused on developing therapeutics that can clear the virus. 
Members of the LCRI include scientists and researchers from prestigious medical institutions across the United States, including representatives from Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Medical School, the University of California at San Francisco and more.
Amy Proal, the founder of LCRI and chief science officer, told BioSpace that the nation and world are in a state of emergency due to the impact of Long Covid. A microbiologist, Proal said the initiative was formed with a mission to address the immediate and long-term impact of Long Covid.
“It’s important that we understand how patients are harboring the virus,” she said. While some Long COVID patients have been unable to shake their initial infection, Proal noted that it is possible that some other patients could see Long COVID-like issues arise months after they believed they shook the virus due to some sort of triggering effect.
Backed by billionaire philanthropist and pharma entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, the organization aims to address that and develop programs for this high-need area. 
In a brief statement, Soon-Shiong said the SARS-CoV-2 virus has a “remarkable capacity to evade the immune system.” Because of the concerns for downstream effects, he noted that pro-active therapies are needed to “prevent the potentially life-threatening sequelae.”
The LCRI isn’t the only organization focused on Long COVID.
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has built a collaboration of physicians hoping to provide not only treatment for patients but also spur federal guidelines for this health issue, Politico reported.
The collaborative has published guidance on its website for symptoms that practitioners regularly encounter, which includes fatigue, cardiovascular complications and breathing discomfort. 
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