In May and June 2020, the American Society for Microbiology hosted a 3-part virtual Congressional briefing series covering diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19. Learn more and access the recordings below.

Part 1: Diagnostics and Surveillance

Moving Beyond the Pandemic With Reliable, Accurate and Meaningful Tests

Key issues covered:

  1. Laboratory capacity.
  2. Molecular diagnostic test development.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization guidance (EUA)—challenges and opportunities.
  4. Science behind serology tests.


  • Opening remarks by Representative Ami Bera (CA-7).
  • Esther Babady, Ph.D., Medical Director of Microbiology Services, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
  • Elitza Theel, Ph.D., Director, Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory, Mayo Clinic; Associate Professor in Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic.

Congress recently appropriated billions of dollars in new funding to ramp up testing for COVID-19, through both research and innovation and on building capacity. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have noted that without adequate testing, we cannot effectively and safely reopen our economy. As states and localities work to do this, scientists have begun to develop tests, called serology or antibody tests, to determine the extent of exposure to the virus nationwide. These tests have the potential to help us determine exposure to the virus and who may have immunity to reinfection. Yet, questions have been raised about the accuracy and reliability of the tests that are currently available for SARS-CoV-2, the process of bringing those tests to market, and ultimately, how much these tests can tell us when we are still learning about this novel virus. This webinar provides insight into the science of molecular diagnostic tests, the promise and pitfalls of serology testing and explains what is needed from Congress and the Administration to move these efforts forward in both the short and long term.

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Part 2: Vaccines

In Pursuit of a Vaccine for SARS-CoV-2

Key issues covered:

  1. Vaccine development.
  2. Distribution and uptake.
  3. Preparing for future pathogens.


  • Welcome by Robin Patel, M.D., ASM Past President.
  • Paul Duprex, Ph.D., Director, Center for Vaccine Research; Professor of Microbiology and Genetics, University of Pittsburgh.
  • Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds; Faculty Member, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

As COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise, the race to develop a vaccine is on, and federal agencies are actively working with academia and companies to bring candidates to market. This webinar will provide insight into the science of combatting viral pathogens, the status of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development and explain what is needed from Congress and the Administration to continue to move these efforts forward in both the short and long term. You will hear directly from the experts working to develop vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus, and the role of international collaboration in their development, distribution and uptake.

Questions and topics that will be discussed include: why does it take so long to develop vaccines? What investments are needed through NIH to accelerate this work? Once a vaccine is approved, will everyone be willing and able to get one? It is imperative that acceptance and uptake are strong, and it is critical we educate the public on the importance of getting a vaccine, as well as ensure sustained support for other preventive vaccine measures in addition to COVID-19. Learn more about our efforts.

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Part 3: From Remdesivir to Human Convalescent Plasma

Understanding COVID-19 Therapeutic Development

Key Issues Covered:

  • For human convalescent plasma treatment, what barriers exist to appropriately scaling this approach when it relies on plasma from recovered patients?
  • What have we learned from the pursuit of antivirals against other coronaviruses, such as remdesivir and others that can be applied to this disease? What remaining clinical questions need to be answered?
  • What is needed to continue to move these efforts forward in both the short and long term, and what can Congress do?


  • Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Molecular Microbiology & Immunology; Chair and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Mark Denison, M.D., Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology;  Craig-Weaver Chair in Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists began considering prophylactic and therapeutic options for those who became ill from the virus and those who might be at greatest risk of getting infected. To date, there are no specific therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people with COVID-19, although several studies are in the pipeline. This webinar will focus on 2 of these exciting approaches: (1) the use of human convalescent plasma (HCP) treatment; and (2) the development of novel drug and repurposing existing antiviral drugs like remdesivir.

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, who with his colleagues has conducted groundbreaking clinical research into HCP treatment as a promising therapy for COVID-19, will describe the science behind this therapy, the mechanism and the progress his team has made working with FDA to conduct trials of the therapy on patients in viral hotspots like New York City.

Dr. Mark Denison’s lab has focused on antiviral development since 2013 and initiated and led all preclinical testing for the highly active and broad spectrum antiviral remdesivir. Remdesivir was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.

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