Basic and Translational Research

COVID-19 Research

Vibha Lama, MD, MS
Vibha Lama, MD, MS
Vice Chair, Basic and Translational Research

We are focused on finding new solutions to treating and preventing COVID-19. Below are just a few examples.  

Michigan Minds: COVID-19 and Drug Therapies

Jonathon Sexton, PhD and colleagues recently launched the Center for Drug Repurposing (UM-CDR). The aim of the UM-CDR is to find a drug or drugs, previously approved by the FDA, for one disease and using them to treat another. They are now researching how to combat COVID-19. Dr. Sexton discussed the UM-CDR’s efforts in an interview with Detroit’s Channel 4 on April 20. Read the full story here or listen to the podcast.

COVID-19 Through the Lens of Basic Science

Dr. Jonathon Sexton was interviewed regarding drug repurposing for COVID19. Listen below!

Dr. Sexton's Interview - COVID-19 Through the Lens of Basic Science







Neutrophil extracellular traps in COVID-19 inflammatory storm

  • ​​​Principal Investigator: Jason Knight, MD, PhD
  • Project Summary: This project is in pursuit of the hypothesis that levels of circulating neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) will predict COVID-19 patients at risk for severe disease, while potentially illuminating new and actionable neutrophil-specific therapeutic targets. 

Developing animal models of lung Coronavirus Infection

  • Co-Principal Investigators: Beth Moore, PhDDaniel Goldstein, MD
  • Project Summary: This project seeks to develop a murine model of severe coronavirus pulmonary disease using a natural mouse coronavirus similar to human SARS-CoV2. These models could be used to ask mechanistic questions about the virus pathogenesis and interaction with the immune system in a model system that is accessible to most investigators without requiring BSL3 facilities. We will also determine if common comorbidities (diabetes, aging, immunosuppression) impact outcomes of infection in mice. 

Role of the Nasal Microbiome in Covid-19 Infection Susceptibility in Asthmatic and Non-Asthmatic Adults

  • Principal Investigator: Yvonne Huang, MD
  • Project Summary: The biology of increased susceptibility to Covid-19 infection among younger adults remains unclear with obesity followed by asthma reported as the two most prevalent co-morbidities among hospitalized patients between the ages of 18-49 (CDC MMWR April). Based on existing data linking differences in the nasal microbiome to increased lung inflammation in asthmatic adults, this project will characterize the nasal microbiome from swabs of COVID19- positive vs. -negative patients, with and without asthma, to examine whether distinct nasal microbiome features are associated with greater likelihood of being infected by Covid-19. 

​Whole-genome CRISPR screen for cellular determinants of COVID-19 infection

  • ​Principal Investigator: David Ginsburg, MD
  • Project Summary: A team of U-M researchers is applying its expertise in genome-scale CRISPR screening to identify novel genetic interactions relevant to COVID-19 viral infection. They are screening for mutants with decreased cell surface abundance of the receptor (ACE2) used by the COVID-19 virus to enter cells, as well as mutants with decreased internalization of the COVID-19 virus glycoprotein that binds ACE2 to mediate viral entry. Researchers also are collaborating with U-M virology laboratories to develop a screen for mutants that are resistant to virus-mediated cytotoxicity. 

2019 National Honors

  • Internal medicine faculty members Kenneth Langa, MD, PhD; Suzanne Moenter, PhD; Linda Samuelson, PhD; and Shaomeng Wang, PhD were elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Fellows are elected annually by the AAAS Council for “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications which are scientifically or socially distinguished.”
  • J. Michelle Kahlenberg, MD, PhD, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government to outstanding scientists and engineers.

Transforming Food Allergy Research

The Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center (MHWFAC) announced a major new initiative called the Michigan Food Allergy Research Accelerator (M-FARA), in 2019. This program was made possible by a five-year gift of $5 million from an anonymous donor, which is renewable for a second $5 million after its initial period has lapsed.

This gift aims to establish a program designed to transform how individuals understand the fundamental mechanisms that are driving an increase in food allergy rates in both children and young adults. Additionally, the program seeks to develop innovative strategies to diagnose and treat food allergies. Internal medicine faculty member James Baker, Jr., MD, leads the MHWFAC.