US govt to invest half a billion dollars in long COVID research
The US National Institutes of Health is investing US$470 million dollars into research on long COVID. The massive nationwide study will include tens of thousands of patients and span more than 30 research institutions.
“We know some people have had their lives completely upended by the major long-term effects of COVID-19,” says Francis S. Collins, director of the NIH. “These studies will aim to determine the cause and find much needed answers to prevent this often-debilitating condition and help those who suffer move toward recovery.”
The project is dubbed RECOVER (REsearching COVID to Enhance Recovery) and it will cover a broad variety of research into the long-lasting effects of a COVID-19 infection. The primary home for the clinical arm of RECOVER will be New York University Langone Health, which will oversee a large number of new and previous long COVID studies.
Leveraging data from multiple clinical studies, the RECOVER “meta-cohort” will ultimately comprise up to 40,000 subjects spanning 200 sites and more than 100 scientists. These studies will cover a variety of patient populations (from pregnant to pediatric) and will investigate everything from the causal mechanisms underpinning long COVID to novel treatments.
“This scientifically rigorous approach puts into place a collaborative and multidisciplinary research community inclusive of diverse research participants that are critical to informing the treatment and prevention of the long-term effects of COVID-19,” explains RECOVER’s co-chair Gary Gibbons.
The funding comes from the recent trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan in which $1.15 billion was allocated to research into long COVID.
At a recent press briefing announcing the RECOVER initiative Collins pointed out post-COVID symptoms are diverse and will require broad research to understand. It is suspected between 10 and 30 percent of COVID-19 patients experience persistent symptoms beyond the acute disease. And this could mean millions of Americans will suffer some kind of long COVID symptoms over the coming years.
"Is it a misfiring of the immune system that fails to reset after the infection with this coronavirus? Is it a triggering of some metabolic dysfunction?" Collins asked at the recent press briefing."We don't know. The diversity of symptoms and presentations leads us to believe that long COVID is not just one condition. The only way, therefore, we're going to sort this out is with very large studies that collect lots and lots of data about symptoms, physical findings and laboratory measures."
New RECOVER clinical studies will commence across the US over the coming months. Those interested in volunteering can sign up for notifications of studies in their local area.