June 12, 2020

DHVI Investigator receives grant to study COVID-19 pathogenesis in monkeys

Dr. Maria Blasi
Congratulations to Dr. Maria Blasi on receiving a pilot grant from the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) to study COVID-19 pathogenesis in infant and adult monkeys.

The current outbreak of the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has made it clear that our preparedness to treat or prevent pathogenic zoonotic coronavirus infections are very limited. This underscores the importance of advancing our understanding of the interaction of these viruses with the host to design effective antivirals and protective vaccines. Despite the rapid, wide-spread transmission and propensity for severe respiratory disease associated with the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, infections in young children have been reported as mostly mild, with relatively low hospitalization rates and few deaths, a pattern that also emerged in the previous SARS and MERS outbreaks. On the contrary, SARS-CoV-2 has proved especially deadly on the other end of the age spectrum. A considerable gap exists in our understanding of host factors that determine susceptibility to pathogenic CoVs in infants compared to aging adults. 

In this study, Dr. Blasi and team will investigate the virological and immunological mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis in infant and adult macaques and identify host factors limiting SARS-CoV-2 replication and disease severity.

Drs. Blasi will work in collaboration with Drs. Sallie Permar and Stephanie Langel at DHVI, and Drs. Koen van Rompay, Lisa Miller and Smita Iyer from the California National Primate Center, UC Davis.