The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has lead to unprecedented public health efforts to manage and contain the spread of disease. Physicians, investigators, and public health experts from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine are combining their efforts, mobilizing resources, and developing tools to help save lives and prevent the spread of disease. From laboratories that are delving into the genetics and behavior of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, to the public health experts that are developing models to predict the disease’s spread, efforts to combat this unprecedented challenge are underway all across the medical school.

Campus News

Members of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine community have been stepping forward to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Watch videos with three members of Feinberg labs who detail why they chose to get the COVID-19 vaccine.


Daniel Batlle, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension at Northwestern, has been studying ACE2 and its potential therapeutic uses for many years. When the pandemic began, he proposed a hypothesis that soluble ACE2 could treat the SARS-CoV-2 virus and lead to survival and full recovery, and now he has some exciting preliminary results.

COVID-19 vaccines are being doled out across the nation, almost exclusively to adults. Pfizer's vaccine has been authorized for ages 16 and up and Moderna's vaccine for 18 and up. So when might younger children be vaccinated for COVID-19? And what needs to happen before then? William Muller, MD, PhD, offers insight.

Since SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in Illinois over a year ago, Feinberg scientists have been tracking the evolution of the disease in the Chicago area. Ramón Lorenzo Redondo, PhD, research assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, is part of the team leading this work. He talks about the team's research, the new COVID-19 variants and how the vaccines on the market today stand up to them.

A team of Northwestern scientists have come together from across disciplines to develop a COVID-19 antibody test designed for at-home use. Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, is part of the team working on this test to determine prior exposure to the virus.

Although COVID-19 doesn't necessarily discriminate, some communities are far more susceptible to the disease. People who are black or African-American are more likely to contract the virus - and to die from it. Clyde Yancy, MD, discusses reasons for these outcomes and the need to fully address health care disparities in America.

While the world anxiously awaits a vaccine for COVID-19, some physicians on the front lines are trying new or repurposed therapies in an effort to help COVID patients. Benjamin Singer, MD, a Northwestern physician-scientist, discusses his experiences in the ICU during this time and his recently published letter warning against the use of unproven therapies.

Media Coverage

NBC Chicago

“Our data are suggesting that the path to herd immunity really is through vaccination,” professor Thomas McDade, who was one of the individuals who helped put the study together, said. The study found that one dose “does not provide adequate protection for most people who had mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19,” and that those individuals should still get both doses of the treatment.
The Washington Post

It’s also important to remember that the immune response to covid-19 varies from person to person, said Rob Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health and a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at Northwestern University.

They said transplants should be performed at least four weeks after a diagnosis of irreversible lung damage. In the United States alone, more than 50 double lung transplants have been performed on COVID-19 survivors, and all the patients are alive, said Dr. Ankit Bharat of Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, who has performed a dozen of them. A study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine that examined 12 of the first double-lung transplants performed in COVID-19 patients in the United States, Italy, Austria and India showed that all but two survived and are doing well, said co-author Bharat.

“Now we’re seeing a plateau, and the reason we have this plateau is that the populations who are now more likely to contract and spread it weren’t in the initial phases of vaccination,” said Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “With the virus itself mutating to become more infectious, it is now infecting younger adults and children, who are more exposed and circulating right now.”

"From an ethics standpoint, you don't want to start studying a medication with vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women until you have proven safety and efficacy in the adult population," explained Dr. Larry Kociolek, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention and control at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Chicago Tribune

One of the site’s founders, Jaline Gerardin, said one goal was to offer residents Rt as a better way to gauge “how things are going” than the percentage of tests that come back positive, a commonly cited metric called the test positivity rate. Plus, she said, researchers wanted residents to get a better understanding of how the projections are made.
USA Today

For most of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been disagreement on every aspect of public health policies (e.g., universal lockdown, school reopenings). But there is near complete agreement that the path forward to end the pandemic is through rapid and mass vaccination to achieve herd immunity.

From a public health perspective, "testing is necessary in the short-term to be able to react quickly when cases are increasing and prevent or interrupt outbreaks whereas vaccinations are a prophylactic solution to prevent cases and end the pandemic," said Dr. Sadiya Khan, assistant professor of preventive medicine in epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
NBC Chicago

“I think the decision to lower the age eligibility for the vaccine rollout is appropriate, particularly when we have significant concerns right now about community spread,” said Dr. Mercedes Carnethon with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Steve Brandy with the Will County Health Department said the county is trying to get more partners and medical providers involved to help distribute the vaccine.