The Veterans Administration (VA) https://www.research.va.gov, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) https://www.niaid.nih.gov, within NIH, have signed an agreement to expand collaborative research.
The VA and NIAID already collaborate on infectious diseases and immune system disorders. The agencies have been working together on the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) initiative. The researchers has been evaluating the safety and effectiveness of antibodies and antiviral medications targeting COVID-19.
The new VA/NIH agreement will make it easier for researchers with VA and NIAID to share lab specimens, data, methods, and other resources. The agreement will also involve new training opportunities such as workshops and seminars across the two agencies.
An initial set of joint projects expected to be launched through the agreement, will focus on COVID-19. Some of the projects will test potential new treatments based on antibodies or antiviral drugs as part of the ACTIV initiative. Other projects will analyze data on VA patients to learn about viral mutations such as the Delta variant.
One project underway between the two agencies is being led by Dr. Sunil Ahuja at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. His group is following patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as well as accessing data from routine screenings and monitoring of the healthcare workers caring for COVID patients.
Ahuja and colleagues are focusing on two measures they believe help explain why the virus affects people so differently. Some experience only mild illness and others get very sick. One factor is an impaired immune system. Another factor involves inflammation and tissue damage in the airways.
Besides COVID-19, the VA-NIAID agreement will cover a wide range of infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. According to Dr. Victoria Davey, VA’s Associate Chief Research and Development Officer for Epidemiology and Public Health, “The partnership should lead to better care across all of the conditions.”