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COMMENTARY: COVID collaboration: Working group demonstrates potential for innovation

🕐 4 min read

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, it also illustrates how a new medical school can collaborate with our strong partners in North Texas to address needs right here in our own community.

The vast majority of discoveries in medicine occur within a few miles of an academic medical center, and together with our clinical partners, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical companies, we can drive advances in medicine and attract industry to our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact in our community, and the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine is stepping up to help.

One of the promises of the new school was to bring together collaborators to address health care’s and our community’s most menacing issues – and the pandemic certainly meets that criteria.

The role of the school in our community came into clear focus as COVID-19 found its way into our daily lives. While work is being done worldwide on this virus, several physicians and scientists affiliated with our medical school and other important health care entities here believed that our experience in Fort Worth could offer significant contributions to understanding and ultimately, tackling this challenging pandemic.

We organized community physicians from different medical institutions across the city to create the Fort Worth Clinical Sciences Working Group (FWCSWG) for COVID-19.  Members were recruited based on their clinical, scientific, and leadership backgrounds to enhance meaningful collaboration.

In at least 40 virtual meetings since April, we refined this proposal to explore and develop additional hypotheses/questions, resulting in five original research studies.

Even with strong hope and anticipation for vaccines to help stem this virus, we still have at least several months where the infectivity and morbidity of COVID-19 infection will stress society, our community and our health care systems.

We submitted the first of these studies to the FDA for regulatory review utilizing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the Baylor Scott and White Health System, and will use this same process with other major hospitals in Fort Worth. The first three studies aim to treat the “SARS-COV2 Cytokine Storm” (the overactive immune response) with commercially available monoclonal antibodies targeting a specific components of the  immune system.

The fourth study will investigate a novel treatment for COVID-19 thrombosis (clotting) events.  The fifth study creates a city wide bio-registry of COVID-19 cases that will invite future collaborative, hypothesis-driven work.

We developed a formal infrastructure for FWCSWG, cultivated key donor relationships to secure initial funding, developed robust relationships with industry partners in the immuno-therapeutic and genomics fields, and recently entered into collaboration with international academic partners.

We now recognize the enormous potential of this entity to drive future research collaborations in our city and region.

We are passionately committed to help advance treatments for COVID-19 patients. Our new medical school  formed this diverse team across the city, serving as an example of how a new academic enterprise can stimulate scientific and clinical collaborations to benefit a community.  If we improve or save one life, we will have accomplished our goal while hope fully inspiring physicians in other communities across our country and beyond to collaborate in a scientifically rigorous manner to benefit their regions.

All of this is happening as medical school candidates now are vying for spots in our third class.  The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine continues on its mission and addresses the severe physician shortage in Texas, expands Graduate Medical Education (GME) and produces the compassionate physicians we all covet.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, it also illustrates how a new medical school can collaborate with our strong partners in North Texas to address needs right here in our own community.

The vast majority of discoveries in medicine occur within a few miles of an academic medical center, and together with our clinical partners, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical companies, we can drive advances in medicine and attract industry to our community.

These opportunities, blended with other attributes of the school and its partnerships, resulted in the initial economic impact expectation of $4 billion/year by 2030.

On behalf of all Fort Worth COVID 19 Clinical Sciences Working Group Members, including:

Mohanakrishan (Mo) Sathyamoorthy, M.D.

Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

Stevan Gonzalez, M.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

Stuart Flynn, M.D.

Professor and Dean, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

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