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#GivingTuesdayNow donations support COVID-19 research, testing

Melissa Varner
October 26, 2020
Patrick Flume speaks to someone off camera while standing in a lab
Dr. Patrick Flume is heading up an effort to develop a biorepository of COVID-19 samples. Photo by Sarah Pack

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, respiratory disease expert Patrick Flume, M.D., knew the road back to “normal” would begin by creating a biorepository to support research.

“For us to develop a saliva test or an antibody test, we needed to start getting specimens from people so that we could first begin to understand COVID-19,” Flume said.

Since then, Flume and his team have collected hundreds of samples of blood, saliva, and urine for the MUSC Health COVID-19 Biorepository. The samples are from patients who have been confirmed positive or negative for COVID-19. The lab also collects swabs that have been used to test for COVID-19. Samples are stored at the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research (SCTR) Institute Nexus Laboratory and made available to researchers across the state.

The first samples went to researchers at MUSC and Clemson University working on antibody test development. Since then, samples have supported at least eight researchers looking for answers to some of the biggest questions about COVID-19. Like why some people get sicker than others, and who’s more likely to get infected.

“We have one investigator looking at the pharyngeal swab, because when you swab up in the nose you pick up other material, which includes other bacteria,” Flume explained. “So, you can look at the microbiome and try to understand why some people are more likely to get infected than others.”

By mid-October, 152 patients had donated thousands of samples to the COVID-19 Biorepository. Samples are collected from patients over a year to track changes over time. With Flume’s team already working on multiple COVID-19 clinical trials, they needed help managing the biorepository and finding space to store the growing collection of samples.

Fifty thousand dollars donated in May for #GivingTuesdayNow allowed them to buy a new freezer and help support the salary of a new biorepository manager.

“Everybody wants to know that, if they're giving money, it’s going to something that matters,” said Flume. “Infrastructure is not sexy. But it is critical for the science to happen.”

The biorepository will be able to support even more COVID-19 research because of #GivingTuesdayNow donors.

“Research costs money, and that money has to come from somewhere,” Flume said. “We really depended on philanthropy to get some lifeblood into the development of our repository. So, a huge thank you to those people.”

Flume also extends his gratitude to everyone who has donated a sample to the biorepository.

“We owe a huge debt to a lot of people.”

About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: COVID-19, Thank You Notes