Troy Randall, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, chose collaboration for his project, “Development of SARS-2 Recombinant Proteins for Diagnostics, Vaccine Testing and Research.” Randall served as the lead principal investigator on the study and worked jointly with four other labs, including labs of Drs. Lund, Green, King, and Rosenberg.

Fran Lund, Ph.D., explains that the project was designed to build a cytometric bead array (CBA) that would allow the team to detect antibodies specific for different coronaviruses in the blood, lung, nose, and saliva of individuals (or animal models) that were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, as well as those who had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We built a platform that allows for high throughput screening for these antibodies from hundreds of samples at a time. This CBA platform will allow us to determine whether particular kinds of immune responses to the infection or vaccination are associated with particular types of disease (e.g. mild or severe) or with individuals who might have other co-morbidities (e.g. diabetes) that may affect their ability to respond to the virus or vaccine,” Lund says.

The team was able to build the CBA platform, and it works even better than they had originally envisioned. Lund says, “Importantly, working with our informatics colleague, Dr. Alex Rosenberg, we have automated the analysis portion of the process which greatly increases our capacity to analyze large numbers of samples.”

The original project has led to additional funding and additional studies. The CBA platform is used in pharmaceutical company sponsored pre-clinical studies of vaccine responses in animals that are receiving different types of COVID-19 vaccines, which are being delivered via different routes (e.g. intranasal route). The platform is also used in NIH studies to examine whether infection and vaccination generate different types of immunity to SARS-CoV-2.