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“When you are on the cutting edge of an unknown problem, how much of a problem is it?” says Dr. Lindsey Baden, a top infectious disease expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, on the question he and his colleagues faced when a novel coronavirus emerged in December 2019.
Baden’s been well situated to help both answer that question and respond to it. He’s a deputy editor at the New England Journal of Medicine, part of a team that has responded to COVID-19 with an outpouring of articles; by early December, it had published some 350 items on COVID-19, including research, videos, and podcasts.
He’s also one of the people tapped by George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, and the other organizers of the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, to colead the consortium’s clinical management and outcomes working group. Given the urgency of the pandemic, Baden says one clear priority, along with diagnostics, was to quickly develop or identify effective treatments. He focused the group initially on existing options, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, the anti-inflammatory tocilizumab, and therapies like convalescent plasma (blood from people who’ve recovered from a disease). In a matter of weeks, Baden’s working group organized and launched more than a dozen clinical trials to test these methods.
Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health asked Baden, 55, to help run a clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Cambridge biotech firm Moderna. The results were promising enough that, in late November, Moderna sought emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine, in hopes of distributing doses before year’s end.
Baden, cautious by training, says he is encouraged by the early vaccine results. “I’m always anxious because science is complicated and the data is early,” he says. “But my hope is that COVID can really be beaten back over the next six months.”
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Jessie Scanlon is a writer in Cambridge. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.