A group of top researchers, clinicians and patients on Thursday stepped up their efforts to fight lung Covid, launching a new billionaire-backed initiative to search for the causes of the poorly understood condition and ultimately find treatments to help the millions of people around the world. world to help those living with the disease.
The Lung Covid Research Initiative (LCRI) hopes to accelerate efforts to understand and treat Lung Covid, a sometimes debilitating condition that persists for months or years after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The group’s first goal – backed by $15 million dollars in funding from Balvi, a scientific investment fund led by crypto billionaire and Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin – will be to investigate the causes of Long Covid, with a particular focus on focus on whether the virus persists in the body after the initial infection.
dr. Amy Proal, a microbiologist at the PolyBio Research Foundation and LCRI’s scientific director, told Forbes the research is aimed not only at identifying the presence of the virus in the body, but also at understanding the downstream impact it has on things like blood clotting and the immune system.
Proal said another key goal of LCRI’s research program is to identify measurable features of Lung Covid that could form the backbone of clinical trials and help develop much-needed treatments for the condition.
Henry Scott-Green, one of the co-founders of LCRI and a Lung Covid patient, shared: Forbes the group was founded with a “laser focus” on solving the problem of Long Covid and said its structure and funding is designed to reduce bureaucracy and skip slower government-funded research.
LCRI has already secured further funding from the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, led by biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (the final amount has yet to be settled), and Scott-Green said the group is aiming to donate $100 million to help patients as quickly as possible.
While more than a hundred million people around the world are expected to suffer from Lung Covid, the disease is still poorly understood. The underlying causes are unknown. Proal said growing evidence lends strong support to the viral reservoir theory pursued by LCRI, but some researchers suspect blood clots or immune system problems may be the cause. It is possible that these problems are related. There are no proven treatments for the disease and the exact prevalence in Covid survivors is unknown, although research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests it could be as high as one in five. Besides the fact that millions of people get sick, the economic impact of Long Covid is enormous. The condition keeps as many as 4 million people unemployed and affects more than 16 million Americans of working age, according to a report from the Brookings Institution. The annual cost of lost wages alone can reach $230 billion, Brookings estimates. “A lot of people aren’t really aware of the sheer magnitude of the Long Covid problem,” Scott-Green said.
1 in 13. That’s the number of US adults with long-term Covid symptoms that last for three or more months after contracting the virus, according to data collected in June by the US Census Bureau. The figure – about 20 million adults – does not include children and is likely an underestimate.
What to watch out for
Falling dominoes. Viral persistence is believed to be at the root of a number of other conditions, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as ME or chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Proal, whose research focuses on infection-associated chronic diseases, said: Forbes that when the pandemic started, Long Covid seemed to fit the bill. While committed to working on Long Covid, Scott-Green said he hopes the model will one day be translated to other chronic diseases linked to infections. Hopefully, Long Covid is “the first domino in a series of breakthroughs,” he said.
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