It has been more than one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. More than 500,000 Americans have died of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the globe, with India and Brazil facing devastating new surges in infections.
In December 2019, weeks before the first Covid-19 case was reported in the U.S., a novel airborne respiratory virus hit Sarasota Military Academy (SMA), a public charter school in Sarasota, Florida. The virus spread swiftly and stealthily, causing flu-like symptoms. Healthcare workers were overwhelmed. Scientists raced to find a vaccine. The government struggled to manage the situation. And people panicked—some began hoarding food and face masks.
Fortunately, it was a simulation.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is contributing to the global scientific effort to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Our researchers quickly converted a clinical research laboratory into a viral diagnostics laboratory, becoming a state reference lab in Massachusetts and partnering with the state to conduct rapid surveillance testing in vulnerable populations, such as those in nursing homes and homeless shelters.
Pardis Sabeti, an infectious disease expert at the Broad Institute, knows how to put together a rapid response to outbreaks. When the Ebola virus ravaged West Africa in 2014, Sabeti and her team quickly worked with scientists and health workers on the ground to understand the epidemic. They helped their African partners diagnose the first case of the deadly disease in Nigeria—a key step towards containing it in Africa’s most populous country.