Esteemed Navy Medicine Shipmates,
As you know, our One Navy Medicine Team is on the front lines of this fight combating COVID-19 on multiple platforms and working across many disciplines. Last week I shared with you several examples of how our clinicians are stepping out of their traditional roles to provide “boots on the ground” health care support in this national emergency. Our clinicians remain a vital part of this effort, and they are not alone in the fight.
This past Monday, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center professionals partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct an outbreak investigation in Guam with volunteers from the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The purpose of this investigation is to gather data which will help inform future testing strategies, operational planning, and COVID-19 mitigation measures to ensure the readiness of Navy ships and our Force.
Since the coronavirus outbreak was first recognized, our scientists from Navy Medicine’s Research & Development enterprise immediately began to harness the power of our global network of laboratories to help develop vaccines and therapeutics against SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Our research experts are looking at operational needs and working to develop countermeasure products that will make their way down to the deckplate. Our Navy Medicine Researchers are focusing on four priorities:
- Producing purified human anti-SARSCoV-2 polyclonal antibodies. Naval Medical Research Center has partnered with Sanford Applied Biosciences to produce human neutralizing antibodies from humanized cows (Tc Bovines) that can potentially be used to treat COVID-19 infected patients. When administered to at-risk individuals exposed to COVID-19 infected patients, these Tc Bovine-derived human antibodies may prevent infection or significantly reduce illness associated with a secondary COVID-19 infection.
- Psoralen-inactivated SARSCoV-2 vaccine. Developing an inactivated whole virus COVID-19 vaccine using a flexible vaccine development platform that is based on the use of a psoralen compound, which interrupts virus replication by inactivating viral genes, while leaving the outer virus proteins largely intact. These intact outer virus proteins in psoralen-inactivated vaccines promote a better immune response compared to standard formalin-inactivated vaccines where the outer virus proteins may be distorted or destroyed by the formalin inactivation method leading to a less robust immune response.
- Phage-based COVID-19 vaccine. Designing a multi-subunit phage-based vaccine that will be ready for testing within weeks. They have secured funding for purification, manufacturing, and large-scale throughput to prepare numerous Current Good Manufacturing Practice vaccines, identifying optimal polyvalent vaccines prepared for phase I clinical trials.
- Spearheading a robust and field-deployable rapid diagnostic test suited to meet shipboard demands. Navy researchers are working with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on gene editors that could operate as rapid detectors of pathogenic threats. The development initiative is called “Detect it with Gene Editing Technologies” to enable biosurveillance detection of any threat, anytime, anywhere.
We are eager to see these projects contribute to our fight against COVID-19 and Navy Medicine continues to make meaningful progress by leveraging high-velocity learning to be resourceful and innovative. I would like to note, that the contributions from our doctors and scientists are not always conducted bedside or from a lab bench. In Lima, Peru, team members from Naval Medical Research Unit Six were recently recognized by the State department for stepping up to support the repatriation efforts of over 7,000 U.S. citizens stranded in Peru and transport them back to America. When there is a challenge before us and people are in need, the men and women of our One Navy Medicine Team are there to provide help and support.
Whatever your role, I want each of you to know that your contributions continue to make a difference. It is a well known fact that our Navy is the 911 force for our Nation and often the first words uttered by our leadership in the time of crisis is “When can the Carriers get there?” Because of the Power that you bring to this fight and the immediate game-changing impact you are having, the first thing I’m hearing is “When can Navy Medicine get there?” Thank you for your responsiveness, dedication, and professionalism to our Sailors, Marines, families, and our fellow citizens. You are the game changers in this fight!
With my continued respect and admiration,