Virtual research institute fights Long COVID with support from Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin

A new nonprofit “startup” emerges from stealth today with $15 million in funding from Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterinemphasizing the study and treatment COVID long.

While the the global pandemic may be nearing its conclusion for many, millions of people around the world are still suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19. Studies suggest that anywhere between 20% and 40% of those who contracted COVID-19 experience at least some long-standing symptoms, ranging from mild fatigue and “brain fog” to more serious debilitating conditions such as headaches, nausea, muscle weakness, and breathing problems.

The truth is that we simply I don’t know enough about Long COVID and how best to treat it is where the Long Covid Research Initiative (LCRI) is looking to make its mark.

LCRI is led by a quartet of founders, one of whom is Dr. Amy Proalan eminent microbiologist at Polybio Research Foundation with over 10 years of experience studying conditions similar to Long COVID – Proal has herself been a ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) which is similar to Long COVID, for almost 20 years. Proal is accompanied by Henry Scott Greena London-based product manager who has been absent from his day job at Google’s YouTube for the past two years due to Long COVID; Helga Gutmane, previously an investor at KKR; and Nick Harrold, a former SaaS startup founder.

Dr. Amy Proal of LCRI

Move fast and fix things

Scott-Green first contracted COVID in August 2020, and the symptoms he experienced over the months and years that followed include what he calls “crushing fatigue” and brain fog. “I have improved dramatically over the past year through a variety of treatments – at worst, I was very seriously ill and unable to do even basic tasks,” he told TechCrunch.

But it was his experiences trying to treat his condition, including working with medical professionals, that led him to where he is today – although he feels he got more. lucky than other people with Long COVID.

“Two years ago, very few people — including doctors — knew about Long COVID, and it was difficult to even get a diagnosis,” Scott-Green said. “I was lucky to eventually have access to great specialists who helped me a lot, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky. Getting good quality care is still a huge problem for the vast majority of the large number of people with this disease.

Although LCRI is largely run from the UK, it is officially owned by the US-based PolyBio Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation which focuses on the study of complex chronic inflammatory diseases. Despite its nonprofit status, the technology background of LCRI’s founders could serve as the basis for something more like a “lean” startup, and solve what Scott-Green calls “the global health emergency.” public” that is Long COVID.

Indeed, as well-intentioned and rigorous as some of the government-led funding programs and initiatives are, Scott-Green said that in his experience things simply move far too slowly, which is why the LCRI adopts an operating model closer to the “urgency and pragmatism” of a startup.

“A Long COVID research program relying solely on government grants would take a long time to show results,” he said. “As a patient, I recognized the need to act faster and provide quick answers to the huge number of people suffering around the world.”

To support its mission, the founders have amassed an impressive team of researchers and scholars from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, UCSF, John Hopkins University, among other renowned institutions, philanthropists, and patient communities, who will work together to solve Long COVID.

“We operate as a lean organization that prioritizes rapid execution and close collaboration – and generally, and where it makes sense, trying to apply the organizational principles that have enabled technology to deliver fast big, ambitious plans,” Scott-Green said. “It has allowed us to bring together a team of the best researchers in the world to work collaboratively in a model that is not so common, on a mission to solve a disease and execute a shared research roadmap that answers the most important questions. most urgent in space.”

LCRI’s Henry Scott-Green

A virtual research institute

The collaborative and remote nature of LCRI – none of the founding teams met in person – essentially makes it a virtual research institute. And it plans to take a two-pronged approach to achieving its mission, spanning research and therapeutics.

For the initial research phase, scientists from some of the world’s most esteemed institutions will share their collective expertise and study the disease mechanisms that constitute Long COVID, while follow-up clinical trials will strive to put the results of the research program in real-world treatments.

None of this is free, of course, and that’s where today’s funding announcement comes in. Buterin, best known as one of the creators of the Ethereum blockchain, is investing around $15 million dollars in USDC stablecoin via the 100 million dollars Balvi Fundthat he implemented earlier this year specifically for COVID research projects. Additionally, LCRI has secured commitments from the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation (CSSFF), a charity run by a billionaire surgeon, scientist, and businessman. Patrick Soon Shiong with his philanthropist wife Michele B. Chan.

“Balvi and Vitalik reached out to Amy to ask her to support her research projects, and the partnership grew from there,” Scott-Green said. “The CSSFF has committed to donate with a minimum, but we are still discussing the final amount.”

While $15 million gives LCRI a good start, it probably won’t be enough in the long run, which is why it’s aiming for funding of around $100 million in the coming years — with plans to eventually expand its reach. model to related conditions such as Epstein-Barr virus and enterovirus. But first, they need to learn about Long COVID.

“In one to two years, we want to have raised a lot more funds for long-COVID research and have large ongoing research and clinical trial programs,” Scott-Green continued. “We will have our first results from the research program, and we can use those results to inform our clinical trial efforts. Our sole focus is to find answers for people who suffer from Long COVID, and our goals are to understand disease mechanisms and identify treatment options.

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Edward L. Robinett