_MEDICINE Immunology

The COVID-19 Response
Why does the SARS­-Cov-­2 coronavirus cause some people mild or no symptoms, yet ravage others? Medical researchers in Drexel’s College of Medicine and Tower Health are part of a national patient study to better understand how the disease impacts people differently.

_Elias El Haddad

El Haddad is a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine.

Drexel’s college of Medicine and Tower Health are among 10 leading medical institutions nationwide involved in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to answer questions about variations in immune responses to COVID-19.

The “IMmunoPhenotyping Assessment in a COVID-19 Cohort” study, or IMPACC, aims to advance understanding of diagnosis, biosignatures associated with symptoms, and antibodies that predict protection, in an effort to develop effective treatments.

Drexel and Tower Health researchers are tracking adult COVID-19 patients at Tower Health’s area hospitals as part of the national study of approximately 2,000 patients undergoing treatment for COVID-19.


Colored computer tomography (CT) scan of lungs affected by COVID-19 pneumonia (indicated in red).

Beginning in the first 36 hours of patient admission, researchers will track study participants in the hospitals for up to 28 days. The tracking will include DNA samples from blood and nasal swab samples during medical care. Researchers will also get samples during patients’ follow-up appointments every three months, for up to a year, to assess their recovery and level of immunity, if any.

The research will also compare the severity of the disease with amounts of the virus detected. Researchers hope this longitudinal data can help in improving care for patients with COVID-19.

“There is a big gap in our understanding of why the virus can lead to a range of symptoms from asymptomatic to severe complications and death,” says study co-principal investigator Elias El Haddad, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine in the College of Medicine. “We expect that in this study we will be able to identify biomarkers that can predict a specific COVID-19 symptom. This will help inform us on the nature of treatment implemented.”