MORRISTOWN, NJ - As of today, June 4, there are more than 162,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Jersey. Although there is no currently available vaccine against coronavirus, Atlantic Health System is calling on its expertise and national reputation for conducting cutting-edge clinical trials in oncology, neuroscience as well as cardiology, to look for effective treatments for coronavirus and to develop a vaccine.

Internationally known academic medical centers from other parts of the country are partnering with Atlantic Health System to increase access to innovative trials. The COVID Research Program is enrolling patients from New Jersey, which has one of the highest concentrations of COVID-19 patients. 

“Almost overnight, we have built a robust COVID-19 clinical research study,” said Eric Whitman, MD , medical director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. “The caliber of our research program is a result of the hard work and dedication of our physicians, staff, research team, external research partnerships and our reputation.”

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Atlantic Health System Offers Immune Response Study

Atlantic Health System is offering an immune response study, sponsored by TScan Therapeutics, Inc. The study focuses on identifying the precise way the human immune system recognizes and responds to infections like COVID-19 or other diseases like cancers, stated hospital officials. TScan has developed a novel technology that enables them to identify the natural targets of T cells.

According to the health care system, purpose of this study is to understand how immune cells mount an immune response to COVID-19. This knowledge obtained will be used in an effort to develop new treatments, vaccines, or diagnostics against COVID-19. Patients who have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection have immune cells with the ability to recognize and attack the virus, but it is not clear how immune cells recognize COVID-19, said doctors. TScan is leveraging its proprietary discovery platform to identify the precise epitopes recognized by T cells in COVID-19 recovered patients, they said.

“Recovered patients, who choose to volunteer for the TScan clinical research study, will have a one-time blood sample collected so researchers can study how the patient’s T cells recognize and control the virus,” said Principal Investigator Angela Alistar, MD , medical director of the Breakthrough Treatment Center, and of GI Medical Oncology at Morristown Medical Center. “The goal is to use this information to design effective vaccines that will generate appropriate T cell responses in people who have not yet been infected with the virus.”

This research could be used to generate a vaccine who could provide individuals with immunity against potential future COVID-19 infection, said hospital officials.

For more information about this study, please contact Clinical Research Associate Joana Achanfuo-Yeboah at Joana.Achanfuo-Yeboah@atlantichealth.org or (973) 886-7801.

The COVID Research Program

Atlantic Center for Research and Atlantic Health System Cancer Care recruited experts in research from the oncology, infectious diseases and research departments at Morristown and Overlook medical centers to form and conduct new studies focused on COVID-19. Once the pandemic hit, the group volunteered to focus on getting a world-class COVID Research Program off the ground. Other departments soon joined in, including cardiac research, cystic fibrosis research and radiation therapy.

“The COVID Research Team is fast-tracking a broad range of exciting research studies and doing whatever they can to improve the quality of care for patients,” said Jan Schwarz-Miller, MD, MPH, Chief Medical and Academic Officer, Atlantic Health System. “Our research team has stepped forward, working long hours to make this happen and
rapidly enrolling many of the region’s patients in our clinical trials.”

Among others, the physician investigators include infectious disease specialists, Jason A. Kessler, MD , from Morristown Medical Center, and Robert J. Roland, DO , from Overlook Medical Center; pulmonary and critical care physicians Lewis Rubinson, MD, PhD and Stanley Fiel, MD from Morristown Medical Center; John Halperin, MD , medical director, Atlantic Health System Neuroscience; Elliot Rosenstein, MD , medical director, Institute for Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases, Overlook Medical Center; and several members of Atlantic Medical Group Oncology: Charles M Farber, MD, PhD , medical director of Oncology Research Network Development for Atlantic Health System; Mohamad Cherry, MD , medical director of Hematology, Morristown Medical Center; Sophie Morse, MD , oncology, Overlook Medical Center; and Dr. Alistar and Dr. Whitman.

To learn more about COVID-19 clinical trials at Atlantic Health System, visit www.atlantichealth.org/research .