COVID-19: Virology, Vaccines, and Immunity
In late 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) began human-to-human transmission. Within weeks, hospitals at the site of the outbreak were overwhelmed with patients severely ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, and the virus had begun spreading around the world. Meanwhile, scientists were quickly able to sequence the virus’s genome (all of the letters in its genetic material), produce tests for infection, determine its receptor in humans, and discover drugs that stop viral replication in cell culture. Progress on the molecular biology, virology, and immune response in COVID-19 continues apace. Nevertheless, it’s clear the virus will continue to circulate worldwide; and in the United States in particular, where as of this writing more than 90,000 people have died of COVID-19, inadequate testing and tracing has rendered prospects of an end to distancing and quarantining entirely uncertain. How far along are we in the process of developing vaccines and treatments against COVID-19? What is herd immunity, and what does it mean to achieve it? Given the current state of research and medicine, how must we act in the days, weeks, and months to come?
In this course, we will review the molecular virology of coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 in particular. We’ll review the various COVID-19 diagnostic tests and the information each provides. We will discuss the epidemiology of pandemics and the much discussed concept of ‘herd immunity.’ Finally, we will track ongoing research into treatments and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and think through the ethics of clinical trials in the time of a deadly pandemic. Will this be the “darkest winter in modern history,” or will the virus be contained in time? How can everyone—not just scientists and doctors—help prevent the worst from arriving?
Course ScheduleSunday, 3:00-6:00pm EST
July 19 — August 09, 2020