Heroes of the Pandemic
August 28, 2020, Imanis Life Sciences, Rochester MN
Six months now into this perplexing and powerful pandemic, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing our “front line” heroes whenever we venture out and also when we don’t. We see them, masked of course, behind plexiglass at the grocery store, dropping packages at our door, overheating in head-to-toe PPE to reach into our cars to test us for COVID-19. We continue to thank them for their invaluable and brave service. This month, though, we are pleased to bring you a different kind of “front line” hero. They are doctors, scientists, researchers — even a COVID-19 survivor — working largely behind the scenes in labs to track the virus, dig into data, study the efficacy of drugs and antibody tests, all with a common goal: To crack the code on COVID as quickly as possible and get our state and nation back on track. And while it’s un-Minnesotan to say this, we can and should be proud that so many national leaders reside right here in our state.
Senior Scientist, Imanis Life Science, LLC
The body makes antibodies to fight COVID-19 but many of those tiny proteins don’t actually block the coronavirus from infecting a cell. Only “neutralizing antibodies” protect against infection. So Rianna Vandergaast spent much of her spring holed up in labs in Rochester, designing and running experiments on ways to detect neutralizing antibodies. In June, Mayo Clinic announced it would begin offering the first-of-its-kind test that Vandergaast and her colleagues at Imanis Life Sciences and sister company Vyriad designed to detect these difficult-to-spot proteins. The test will be used to see whether people can become infected with COVID-19 more than once, whether plasma from COVID patients can fight infection in others and how well vaccine candidates perform. In other words, she said, “Are those antibodies able to neutralize future virus?” JOE CARLSON