PHILADELPHIA--Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie today announced a $1 million contribution to Penn Medicine to establish the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund, laying the foundation for the world's foremost experts to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The funds will support both an emerging research program to test front-line health care workers for potential immunity to COVID-19, as well as provide flexibility for Penn Medicine's researchers--who have overseen the world's most seminal advances harnessing the power of the immune system to fight disease--to develop real-time research protocols to battle the disease.
The contribution provided by Lurie offers the opportunity for Penn's leaders to address critically emerging needs as the pandemic evolves. Top priorities range from developing rapid diagnostic testing, to finding drugs that work against the virus, to developing potential vaccines. In the coming days, serology tests will be deployed across multiple research studies, including for health care workers and recovered COVID-19 patients, helping scientists to determine if a person has antibodies against the virus, which could help to enhance hospitals' knowledge about which staff may be immune to the disease. These critical projects will enhance understanding of how to protect frontline health care workers, and drive knowledge to advance options for treatments and vaccines in the crucial months ahead.
"We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that is affecting all of us in so many ways," said Lurie. "Every passing day brings new stories of heartbreaking tragedy, inspirational courage, and hopeful innovation. We can and will get through this, but only if we work together, care for each other, and focus our attention and resources towards sustainable strategies. There are so many individuals and organizations who are making daily sacrifices, and we are incredibly thankful for their dedication and bravery. We must continue to support these efforts in every way that we can, while also seeking a solution that will help us move forward."
"We have reached a critical point in our fight against COVID-19 in which testing for antibodies is absolutely essential both to protect our front-line workers in the short term and to develop treatments and vaccines that will save lives and help defeat the virus. With that in mind, I am proud to offer my support to Penn Medicine's research efforts by establishing the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund. This fund will aid Penn's multi-disciplinary approach in immunology, merging research in diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine development. Researchers from those three areas will work hand- in- hand and rely upon one another to create an immediate and lasting impact both locally and worldwide."
Armed with the largest single-institution immunology community in the country, Penn has notched a string of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for immune-based therapies in the past three years. Penn's best-in-class infrastructure -- from well-established bench-to-bedside pipelines, to high-level biosafety facilities to test treatments with live virus-- has led its immunologists to international renown for the discovery, development, and deployment of critical treatments in cancer, heart disease, infectious and autoimmune diseases.
"In a time of national crisis, this is the kind of extraordinary partnership that can open doors and discover new pathways to address the profound challenges before us," said University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann. "I am personally grateful to an exceptional civic leader and a great friend, Jeffrey Lurie, for giving us the tools to fight back against this pandemic in a way that may not only benefit our city and country but also the world."
"This gift will help support the more than 200 experts at Penn who have harnessed the immune system to develop groundbreaking approaches to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases to focus their collective expertise to fight COVID-19," said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. "We have decades of experience in understanding the immune system's response to disease, and even how to enlist the immune system to actively fight disease in patients' own bodies. This generous support will allow our team to rapidly expand it's their efforts to learn more about how to treat and prevent COVID-19."
As the Philadelphia community faces the uncertain times to come, Lurie's gift empowers and inspires scientists to continue developing ways to help the Philadelphia community and people around the globe.
"When we band together, our defense gets stronger," Lurie said. "I ask that you join me in supporting the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund, and help the dedicated immunologists at Penn Medicine defeat this virus."
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center--which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report--Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.
Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.