Note from Alice: Beyond Celiac Grant Recipient Applying Celiac Research to Combat COVID-19
When Beyond Celiac awarded our research grants in 2019, we funded cutting edge, meaningful work in celiac disease by some of the best scientists.
One of the grant recipients is Paul Klenerman, PhD, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Oxford, Oxford, England, and an immunologist who has done extensive work in Hepatitis C and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). He received a grant to study killer T-cells that cause the actual tissue damage in celiac disease.
But the global COVID-19 pandemic caused him to temporarily pause that work to pursue understanding that would lead to treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19. We are proud to note that Paul is a member of the Oxford Vaccine Group, which was among scientists who just published widely-hailed, encouraging data on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. He’s also one of the authors of three other recent studies related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, his important work in celiac disease is starting up again.
The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate induced strong antibody and T-cell immune responses with an acceptable safety profile in an early trial, researchers reported in The Lancet.
Paul’s other recently published preliminary work on COVID-19 demonstrated strong and broad SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cell responses in people who had recovered from the virus, giving scientists tools to better study how these cells work in protection and in immune pathology. This work contributes to the development of treatments and a vaccine. Another of his COVID-19 studies explored why the elderly appear to be more severely affected by the virus.
Paul has previously said that some of the approaches he is using in his celiac disease research are being applied to investigation of COVID-19. “The processes which drive whether a person makes a response to a virus which is helpful or harmful are not so different to the ones which govern whether you make a helpful or harmful response to gluten. The tools we are using to unpick this in the gut of patients with celiac disease can readily be applied to COVID-19,” he explained.
Beyond Celiac awarded Paul the Established Investigator Award, which placed emphasis on immunology and was designed to support new and novel approaches to understanding celiac disease. He started his celiac disease work funded by the grant before the pandemic and was making progress towards goals that include helping determine which cells to target to treat celiac disease.
I know we all appreciate the intensity with which scientists are working on COVID-19 to find a vaccine that will enable all of us to go back to our normal lives and prevent further loss of life. I know that Paul applies similar intensity to his celiac disease research, and I am excited about the advances all us with celiac disease and our families and future generations at risk for celiac disease will see because of the work he is doing in 2020. With your support, we can continue to fund research which gets us one step closer to therapies and a cure.
“Science reveals itself to the world in real-time in all its glorious uncertainties, but also in all its careful, hard-won, and real achievements,” two Johns Hopkins University public health experts wrote in an editorial about the work being done in COVID-19. And it’s true in celiac disease, too, thanks to investigators like Paul, and thanks to people like you for helping us fund Paul’s work. Together, we envision a world Beyond Celiac.
Together (apart) for a cure,