The biobank will collect de-identified blood samples and medical data from volunteering Biogen employees who contracted and have recovered from COVID-19, as well as their family members and close contacts.
Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women's Hospital—all in Boston—are coordinating the outreach and sample collection effort and the Broad Institute, the biomedical and genomic research center of MIT and Harvard, will generate data from the samples.
The biobank will provide medical and biological data to researchers studying the biology of the virus and working on vaccines and treatments. It will also store frozen samples from consented participants for future research. Biogen will have the same level of access as other researchers and will not have access to identifiable information.
According to the collaborators, this group of patients with a common exposure "will offer a valuable lens into why some people show signs of disease and others are asymptomatic" and help explain why the severity of symptoms differs. Researchers also plan to examine blood samples from recovered patients to study neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and other aspects of their immune profile.
Several Biogen employees contracted COVID-19 after a company meeting in late February and were among the first coronavirus patients in Massachusetts.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very direct, very personal impact on our Biogen community," Biogen Chief Medical Officer Dr. Maha Radhakrishnan said in a statement. "We are uniquely positioned to contribute to advancing COVID-19 science in an organized and deliberate way so we can all gain a better understanding of this virus."
Broad Institute President Eric Lander said the data will accelerate the shared understanding of the disease by identifying new patterns.
"Through this collaboration with Biogen and their employees who have volunteered to share their information, we will be able to learn significantly more about the characteristics and development of this disease and make important discoveries that will lead to treatments for the patients we care for and those around the world," said Dr. Ravi Thadhani, chief academic officer at Partners HealthCare.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Genomeweb.