Top COVID-19 Research: Timely, Curated and Vetted by Experts

From the Curator-in-Chief's Desk—Oct. 15, 2021

Lynn Enquist
Lynn Enquist, Ph.D., Curator-in-Chief
Food and Drug Administration Considers Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters 

Deliberation over the use of booster vaccine doses intended to "boost" protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 continued this week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee discussed authorizing booster doses of the Moderna mRNA and Johnson & Johnson adenovirus COVID-19 vaccines. Both companies reported administration of a booster dose was safe and increased neutralizing antibody titers; however, increased protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection afforded by the additional doses was not determined. The FDA committee also reviewed the safety and efficacy of "mixing" vaccines, where booster doses are a different vaccine than an individual’s primary vaccination series. Atmar, R., et al. followed over 450 individuals who received a vaccine booster 4 to 6 months after initial vaccination, finding heterologous boosts increased neutralizing antibody titers (6 to 76-fold) higher than homologous boosts (4 to 20-fold) in a preprint. The authors noted larger studies are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of boosters for diverse age and ethnic groups. This is important with current inequity in vaccine distribution and the fact that COVID-19 vaccines induce durable protection against hospitalization.

Simple Treatments and Diagnostics Are Needed to Fight COVID-19 Globally

The FDA is also reviewing Merck and Ridgeback’s application for Emergency Use Authorization for its antiviral molnupiravir submitted this week that indicates the antiviral reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 50%. If authorized, molnupiravir would be the first oral COVID-19 antiviral. This would make COVID-19 treatment easier as compared to current intravenously administered treatments, especially in resource-limited countries. These countries could also benefit from quick and simple SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics, which Richard L. Hodinka, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, addressed in this week’s commentary. In the article "Ultrarapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using a reverse transcription-free exponential amplification reaction, RTF-EXPAR," Carter, J., et al. described a rapid and sensitive method to amplify viral RNA that relies on an exponential amplification reaction to produce high quantities of DNA that are detected using a SYBR Green fluorescence dye. Hodinka highlighted the importance of developing this fast and easy-to-use diagnostic assay to produces results in real time, but points out larger studies are needed to determine the accuracy and specificity of the assay.

How Long Is Immune Memory Against Variants?

The longevity of immunity to emerging variants is unknown. In their preprint, Marcotte, H., et al. observed memory B and T cells for at least 15 months in convalescent patients. Sera collected 9 to 15 months after infection retained neutralization activity against variants, though at reduced levels for the Beta, Gamma and Delta variants compared to the reference strain. Lucas, C., et al. reported in Nature that mRNA vaccine-induced antibodies also neutralized variants. Presenter Dr. Mehul Suthar and panelists Drs. Nicole Doria-Rose and Alessandro Sette will discuss immune memory from infection and vaccines to SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants at the COVID-19 Research Registry Virtual Journal Club on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Lynn Enquist, Ph.D.
COVID-19 Research Registry Curator-in-Chief


How is the genome of SARS-CoV-2 evolving? What mechanism does the coronavirus use to target human cells? How does the immune system react to SARS-CoV-2?



Will serology provide the ultimate answer? Does the existence of the antibody equal protection due to antibody neutralization? How often should patients be tested?


What are the results of the newest treatment? What drugs are in the pipeline? What are the latest outcomes from clinical trials?



What are the different kinds of vaccines? Do coronaviruses evolve to escape vaccines? What have we learned from work with Ebola virus and SARS vaccines development?


How does a pandemic start? How long will this pandemic last: can data models give us some hints? COVID-19 affects people differently depending on their age, how does this affect transmission? How does social distancing influence transmission rates?



Scientifically speaking, what is a coronavirus? What are the similarities and differences in structure and activities of SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2? What is the PK/PD of Remdesivir?

Educational Resources

Biweekly Commentary Letter

Oct. 15, 2021

By Richard L. Hodinka, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Hodinka is a curator of the registry. 

 Ultrarapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using a reverse transcription-free exponential amplification reaction, RTF-EXPAR by Carter, J., et al., published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Aug. 16, 2021. 
View the Commentary on ASM Connect View Past Commentaries