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Event to spotlight VUMC’s COVID-19 research efforts

Nov. 3, 2022, 8:31 AM


by Bill Snyder

The public is invited to listen in as scientists on the forefront of COVID-19 research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center share their personal stories on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 16, in 214 Light Hall.

Co-hosted by the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center and the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (VI4), this “Behind the Bench” celebration of science will begin at 12:30 p.m. A reception will follow the conclusion of the storytelling at 5:30 p.m.

Participants include James Crowe Jr., MD, Robert Carnahan, PhD, and their colleagues in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, and Mark Esser, PhD, vice president, Early Vaccines and Immune Therapies at the global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Human monoclonal antibodies against the COVID-19 virus that were isolated in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center in early 2020 were optimized by AstraZeneca into a long-acting antibody combination called Evusheld. In December 2021, Evusheld was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent COVID-19 in at-risk individuals.

Others VUMC speakers include:

  • C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, who co-led a national clinical trial demonstrating the safety and efficacy of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children.
  • Mark Denison, MD, an internationally known authority on coronaviruses whose team contributed to the development of remdesivir, the first drug approved by the FDA for use in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
  • Stephen Fesik, PhD, who is using fragment-based approaches and structure-based design to develop protease inhibitors that could be taken orally to prevent the COVID-19 virus from replicating in the body.
  • Natasha Halasa, MD, MPH, first author of a paper that reported infants under 6 months old were better protected from COVID-19 complications when their mothers received two doses of the vaccine while pregnant.
  • Jonathan Schmitz, PhD, MD, a clinical microbiologist with expertise in microbial pathogenesis, who is researching genetic and bacterial factors that may increase the risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

The speakers will be introduced by Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, VUMC’s Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer, and VI4 director Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH.

To register for the event, go here.

For more information, contact Anthony Czelusniak, communications coordinator for the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and Vanderbilt Vaccine Center at

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