The Integrated Research and Development Laboratory at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute has received a $22.5 million grant to serve as the sole central reference lab in the nation to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on several COVID-19 studies for the next year.

In collaboration with multiple research partners, CDC is conducting prospective cohort studies to monito​r the incidence of symptomatic COVID-19 and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection throughout the U.S. These cohorts also make it possible to examine the duration of SARS-CoV-2 viral shedding and to assess the infectiousness of viral RNA among prolonged shedders.

During winter months, CDC expects both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses to co-circulate the U.S., making it necessary to collect virologic and epidemiologic information on both viral diseases within the cohorts simultaneously.

“The team we have here is truly tremendous and I continue to be amazed at how they have responded in the face of adversity during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Jennifer Meece, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory. “This is an amazing opportunity for the Research Institute and the Laboratory team. Our team has highly accomplished, experienced and dedicated laboratorians whose commitment to quality research for more than 20 years as a core research laboratory have led to this opportunity. This did not happen overnight."

The Laboratory will focus on three objectives for this award:

  • Establishing an effective means of assessing SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus infections in the context of prospective cohort studies.
  • Designing effective specimen processing and molecular testing procedures that are adapted to the needs of CDC's cohorts.
  • Full implementation and refinement of high throughput molecular diagnostics.

“We have a proud history of strong epidemiologic research and work on these cohort studies and this new funding will only strengthen our foothold in this area," said Amit Acharya, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., executive director of the Research Institute. “This is huge and a true testament to the expertise and national recognition of the Laboratory team."

Dr. Meece will serve as the primary investigator on the award.