The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented response from the scientific community. Scientists and researchers from every corner of the world found ways to work together, to create treatments and vaccines in the face of a global health emergency.
This colloquium, as part of an ongoing series, will engage experts in a discussion about the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The experts will explore the decades of mRNA research that pointed toward the development of vaccines; the pace at which the scientific community collaborated to find new ways to combat the disease; and the lessons learned during this pandemic that will prepare us for the next one.
Drew Weissman, MD, PhD
Professor, Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Andrzej Joachimiak, PhD
Director of the Structural Biology Center and Midwest Center for Structural Genomics
Argonne National Laboratory
- Michelle Buchanan, PhD
Senior Technical Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science Programs
Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy
- J. Patrick (Pat) Fitch, PhD
Associate Laboratory Director for Chemical, Earth and Life Sciences
Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Patrick C. Wilson, PhD
Incoming Professor of Pediatrics
Weill Cornell Medicine
Drew Weissman, MD, PhD
Drew Weissman is a professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He received his graduate degrees from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Weissman, in collaboration with Dr. Katalin Karikó, discovered the ability of modified nucleosides in RNA to suppress activation of innate immune sensors and increase the translation of mRNA containing certain modified nucleosides. The nucleoside-modified mRNA-lipid nanoparticle vaccine platform Dr. Weissman’s lab created is used in the first two approved COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. They continue to develop other vaccines that induce potent antibody and T cell responses with mRNA–based vaccines. Dr. Weissman’s lab also develops methods to replace genetically deficient proteins, edit the genome, and specifically target cells and organs with mRNA-LNPs, including lung, heart, brain, CD4+ cells, all T cells, and bone marrow stem cells.
Andrzej Joachimiak, PhD
Andrzej Joachimiak is the Director of Structural Biology Center and Midwest Center for Structural Genomics. He is an expert in synchrotron-based X-ray crystallography and structural biology. At Argonne, he has made significant contributions to the high-throughput crystallography using synchrotron radiation and the development of state-of-the-art facilities for macromolecular crystallography. The development and integration of the novel synchrotron beamlines, exploitation of the anomalous signal-based phasing methods in the third-generation environment and integration of hardware and software at the Structural Biology Center beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source contributed very strongly to the enhanced efficiency of such facilities worldwide. He holds degrees in chemistry from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and molecular biology from the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics in Warsaw.
Michelle Buchanan, PhD
Michelle Buchanan currently serves as Senior Technical Advisor to the Deputy Director for Science Programs in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Prior to this assignment, she served as Deputy for Science and Technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 2017 to 2021, overseeing ORNL’s extensive portfolios of research and development, spanning physical and materials sciences, energy and engineering sciences, computing and computational sciences, biological and environmental sciences, neutron sciences, and global security. From 2000 to 2017, Dr. Buchanan was the Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences. She served as director of the ORNL Chemical Sciences Division from 2000 to 2004 and as associate director of the ORNL Life Sciences Division from 1999 to 2000. She initiated the Center for Structural Molecular Biology at ORNL, serving as its director from 1999 to 2003, and led the Organic and Biological Mass Spectrometry Group in the Chemical Sciences Division from 1986 to 1999. She joined ORNL in 1978 after earning a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin.
Dr. Buchanan is the author or co-author of more than 150 scientific publications and reports, holds two patents, and was editor of a book on Fourier transform mass spectrometry.
J. Patrick (Pat) Fitch, PhD
Pat Fitch is Associate Laboratory Director for Chemical, Earth and Life Sciences at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). During the pandemic he has also led LANL’s Special Office for COVID-19 R&D and the COVID-19 Testing Team for DOE’s National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory. Prior to LANL, he stood up and then directed for over a decade one of the nation’s largest maximum biocontainment laboratories (BSL-2, 3, and 4). This Laboratory houses the National Biological Threat Characterization Center and the National Bioforensic Analysis Center that perform thousands of analyses each year. His biodefense, pathogen, and toxin research interests were preceded with work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on the human genome, medical device design, digital imaging, and computer architectures and algorithms. He received a PhD. in Engineering from Purdue University and BS degrees in Physics and Engineering Science from Loyola.
Patrick C. Wilson, PhD
Patrick C. Wilson, PhD, is Incoming Professor of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine. Prior to joining Weill Cornell, Wilson was a professor of immunology at the University of Chicago. For most of his career, Wilson has studied B cells – a type of white blood cell that makes antibodies – in the contexts of infectious diseases and immune tolerance, often using influenza vaccination or infection as an experimental model. His laboratory also has broad interests in influenza vaccinology including immune contexts affecting antibody and B cell responses to influenza, antibody epitope discovery, and the development of improved influenza vaccines or monoclonal antibody-based therapeutics. Wilson earned his PhD in immunology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and his MS and BS in biology/biology sciences from Youngstown State University.
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