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ASU Receives $12.5 Million To Help Build U.S. COVID-19 Serology Project

Arizona State University has received a $12.5 million contract from the National Cancer Institute. The university will help build the nation's largest coordinated effort to study immune responses to COVID-19.

The Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19, or SeroNet, will delve into some of the virus's many open questions, such as who gets sickest and why, and how long immunity might last.

Although ASU does not have a medical school, it has established itself as a center for virology and immunology research with experience with cancer-causing viruses like HPV.

Since May, when it developed one of the first COVID-19 saliva tests in the U.S., the university has provided more than 300,000 free tests to the community.

Biodesign executive director Joshua LaBaer said ASU hopes to develop a simple test, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that detects prior coronavirus exposure.

"Serology is a measure of whether or not you have had the virus in the past. People who develop antibodies to the virus will have a positive serology test," LaBaer said. 

NCI chose ASU as one of its four capacity-building centers, along with Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York; University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

ASU's Biodesign Capacity Building Center will improve on commercially available serology tests by assessing immune responses across a range of proteins and by measuring the strength of those responses.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.