The COVID-19 pandemic may be on the wane in the United States, but the impact of the disease, which has killed some 600,000 Americans, isn’t going away anytime soon. Studies show that up to one-third of nonhospitalized patients who were infected with the novel coronavirus still had a range of symptoms three months later, including fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog,” sleep disorders, fevers, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and depression.
To boost the understanding and treatment of these debilitating aftereffects, known as “long COVID,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is investing $1.15 billion in research initiatives that were funded by Congress last December. NYU Langone Health will play a critical role in the project, known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection, or PASC. The institution has been awarded up to $52 million and was named the project’s Clinical Science Core, charged with leading and integrating the research activities of clinical sites around the country.
NYU Langone researchers, who have advanced the knowledge and treatment of COVID-19 during the past 15-plus months, will lead studies on the chronic effects of the infection in diverse patient groups, known as the SARS-CoV-2 Recovery Cohort. PASC will leverage the databases of electronic health records to examine how many people are affected in the long term, what treatments contribute to recovery, and why some patients are vulnerable to these symptoms while others aren’t. Biological specimens will be examined to learn how the brain, heart, and other organs are impacted by the still-mysterious virus.
“We are grateful to the NIH for their support of this important mission, which is to better understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection and to find new ways to avert a potentially profound public health crisis,” says Stuart D. Katz, MD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics, director of NYU Langone Health’s Heart Failure Program, and principal investigator for the PASC Clinical Science Core.
The PASC Clinical Science Core will be led by Dr. Katz; Leora Horwitz, MD, director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science; and Andrea B. Troxel, ScD, director of the Division of Biostatistics. “These leaders were the first to acknowledge the expertise and technical skills made by countless NYU Langone collaborators in support of an initiative of this magnitude and importance to the health of our patients,” says Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, the Saul J. Farber Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and chief scientific officer at NYU Langone.