Everyone vs. COVID-19: U-M scientists need public’s help to understand and fight coronavirus

Signing up for U-M registry will make it easy for researchers to find sick, recovered, at-risk and healthy people for dozens of studies

May 7, 2020
Written By:
Kara Gavin
  • umichnews@umich.edu

Microscope. Image credit: iStockANN ARBOR—University of Michigan researchers have launched dozens of COVID-19 studies in the past six weeks, working at top speed to understand the new coronavirus, test ways of preventing or treating COVID-19, and measure the pandemic’s effects on people and society.

Now, they need the public’s help.

They need help from people who have already gotten sick, and from people who have the highest risk of catching the virus. They need help from people whose health puts them at risk of serious COVID-19 illness, and from healthy people at low risk.

Everyone can help by signing up for the U-M Health Research Registry. When they sign up, they can indicate if they’ve had COVID-19 or not, and indicate their interest in COVID-19 research.

Signing up for the registry, whether or not they’ve had COVID-19, will make it easy for U-M researchers to reach out to them through a confidential, secure system to share information about studies that need people like them, and see if they might be eligible to join. Once contacted, they can decide whether or not they want to volunteer to take part in that study.

Some studies might just involve taking a survey from home. Several of these are already listed at U-M Health Research. Many studies need samples of blood or saliva from people who have recovered from COVID-19 or currently have the disease. Such samples give scientists a golden opportunity to learn more about the virus and the body’s response to it.

The registry will make it easy for sick and recovered patients to give samples that many scientists can share, through U-M’s new COVID-19 Biorepository. Already, it holds more than 14,000 samples from hundreds of COVID-19 patients treated at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

Other studies might involve taking a drug or supplement that’s already on the market or in development to see if it can prevent COVID-19 or lessen its effects.

For people who become sick enough to need hospital care, U-M clinical trials may provide access to new drugs and devices that aim to save lives.

“We can’t defeat COVID-19 without help from the community, and thousands of people who volunteer for our studies, the best way for us to find those volunteers is by having a database of people who are willing to help us if we need someone like them.”

“We can’t defeat COVID-19 without help from the community, and thousands of people who volunteer for our studies,” said Anna Lok, assistant dean for clinical research at the U-M Medical School. “The best way for us to find those volunteers is by having a database of people who are willing to help us if we need someone like them.”

Anna Lok

Anna Lok

Lok also notes that members of the public who work in health care can also sign up for a second COVID-19 registry, called the HERO Registry. U-M researchers and their colleagues around the country are tapping members of the registry to volunteer for a study that is testing the preventive power of an existing drug.

Lok says that taking part in research, which uses scientific methods and strict safety monitoring, could help people worldwide—and right in Michigan. U-M researchers will publish their findings in medical journals to share them with clinicians and health policy leaders.

Michigan Medicine teams are also offering certain critically ill patients the opportunity to try new options through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Expanded Access program. Different from a clinical trial, but still with safety protections, it can give some patients access to options they would otherwise not have, and record their response.

For instance, Michigan Medicine is taking part in the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Registry. People who have recovered from a known or likely case of COVID-19 can donate blood plasma via the American Red Cross to be given to patients in this program.

To see a full list of U-M COVID-19 research projects in planning or in progress, visit the COVID-19 Research Index. This index should not be used to contact research teams, because not all studies are ready to recruit participants. To learn more about the U-M Health Research registry and how it’s being used to identify potential participants for COVID-19 studies, visit Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research.