Back in March, when Lucy Krasker was finishing up her final year at the University of Virginia, she began experiencing what she thought were allergy symptoms as she does each year. But when she lost her sense of smell, she decided to be tested for COVID-19. When her test came back positive, her family also went in for testing, and her mother, Amy Krasker, also tested positive.
“It’s an indelible memory for the two of us — having spent such a weird anomaly in time,” said Amy Krasker. “And we were very, very fortunate that we had such mild cases.”
Once she recovered, Lucy knew she wanted to find a way to help to advance research into the disease.
“I think in an age where the world is really scared right now, we have to trust in each other and fight for learning,” she said. “I’m for learning as much as we can to prevent something like this happening again in the future. I’d hate for the next generation to have to go through this.”
Lucy expressed her desire to engage in research to Meredith Hayden, M.D., associate executive director of student health at the University of Virginia.
“As a smart and engaged fourth-year UVA student, Lucy was very interested in becoming involved in COVID-related research to benefit public health,” said Hayden. “Since she was living in the Charleston area at the time, I recommended that she reach out to MUSC, my alma mater, to see if there were opportunities available.”
Amy Krasker, who also lives in Charleston, felt compelled to join her daughter in finding a way to contribute to the knowledge base about COVID-19.
“We had light cases, and so we felt we needed to do something for the people who perhaps had more severe disease or who had lost family members,” she said. “We were lucky and so, because of that, we were especially compelled to participate.”
“I’m for learning as much as we can to prevent something like this happening again in the future. I’d hate for the next generation to have to go through this.”
Lucy and Amy took Hayden’s advice and looked for opportunities to engage in research at MUSC. When they saw a news story about the MUSC COVID-19 biorepository, they reached out to Patrick Flume, M.D., about contributing. Flume directs the biorepository and is co-principal investigator of the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research (SCTR) Institute. The biorepository, housed in the SCTR-funded Research Nexus laboratory, is a collection of patient blood and saliva samples that researchers across the state and nation can study to learn more about the virus once they have obtained the necessary approvals. Since it opened in April, the biorepository has enrolled 144 unique patients, collected 6,586 aliquoted – or portioned – samples and supported 12 investigator-led research projects, including two at Clemson.
“The biorepository is a resource needed to perform research on important questions on how we respond to SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Flume. “How do we form antibodies or mount a T-cell response? What happens in an inflammatory response to infection? Answering these questions will be important not only for diagnostic testing – the measurement of antibodies -but also for understanding best vaccine development – in other words, what is the most effective immune response to the infection.”
Lucy and Amy were especially excited to contribute samples to the biorepository because they knew that this gift would bear exponential returns for research. They knew that each of their samples would be divided into 20 aliquots, each of which could be used by a research team now or at some time in the future.
“The fact that this was a databank of samples that could be used not only now but in years to come – there was something attractive about it,” said Amy. “That just made it even more of a compelling reason to participate.”