Massachusetts researchers awarded funding to study effects of COVID-19

Researchers from three Massachusetts hospitals are among those to have been awarded $1.2 million in grants by the American Heart Association to study the effects of COVID-19.

The American Heart Association awarded grants to teams at 12 institutions across the United States. The announcement comes less than a month after the Association issued a rapid response call for scientific research proposals to study the effects of COVID-19 on the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.

The COVID-19 and Its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grant initiative received an overwhelming response, with more than 750 proposals submitted, marking it as one of the Association’s largest submissions to a single request for applications.

The announcement brings the Association’s COVID-19 related scientific research funding to $2 million.

“We were just blown away and so impressed to see this level of interest and commitment from the teams submitting such thorough proposals so quickly — our submission deadline was less than two weeks,” said American Heart Association president Dr. Robert A. Harrington

Local research projects will be conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Massachusetts.

  • At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Joseph Loscalzo will lead a team that will look at repurposing already approved drugs for faster applications in treating COVID-19 patients.
  • At Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Michael T. Lu will lead a team that will use chest x-rays of patients admitted for treatment to develop a new way to predict COVID-19 cardiopulmonary collapse and death.
  • At the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Jane E. Freedman will lead a team that will look to develop strategies to improve the health outcomes of COVID-19 patients.

Other institutions to receive funding are Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Mayo Clinic, Stanford University, UCLA, UC San Francisco, the University of Colorado and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Read details about those research projects here.

Cleveland Clinic was selected to serve as the initiative’s COVID-19 Coordinating Center. A team from this center, led by Dr. Mina K. Chung, will collect results from the research projects and coordinate the dissemination of all study findings.

Research will get underway as early as June 1, with findings expected in less than six to nine months for most of the studies. Several researchers aim to have actionable outcomes before a new anticipated wave of COVID-19 strikes in the winter.

Several of the studies will focus on underserved populations and those with pre-existing conditions. Disproportionate high rates of sickness — and death — seem to be emerging, particularly among people of color.

“There’s so much we don’t know about this unique coronavirus and we continue to see emerging complications affecting both heart and brain health for which we desperately need answers and we need them quickly,” said Harrington.