COVID-19 School of Medicine

COVID-19 Closes Labs, Slows Data Collection—The Impact on the Neurology Research Pipeline

First the good news: Neurologists who are unable to get into their laboratories and clinics due to COVID-19, and who are not being redeployed to serve in emergency departments,  have more time to write up their results for publication.

“It may end up being a very productive period of time for one aspect of research, which is reporting data,” said Serena Spudich, MD, MA, the Gilbert H. Glaser professor of neurology, chief of neurological infections & global neurology, and director of the Center for Neuroepidemiology and Clinical Neurological Research at Yale School of Medicine.

“In normal times, people do studies and present them at a conference, but then it can take a year or so to get the work actually published and available to the field,” Dr. Spudich said. “Instead, for some people who are not working on the front lines in COVID-19-related clinical or research work, writing and submitting manuscripts is taking more like weeks. That’s a positive.”

Now the bad news: Aside from having more time to analyze and write up results, academic neurologists are facing a myriad of difficulties, some of which could prove to be far more than temporary inconveniences.

“It’s having a major impact on both basic and clinical research,” said Erik S. Musiek, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. “In the clinical research world there’s going to be a lot of problems. There will be at least several months where the protocol wasn’t followed. There will be data abnormalities that have to be dealt with.”

For ongoing drug trials at the university’s Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC), in-person visits for infusions have been temporarily suspended, Dr. Musiek said. “There’s been a tightening of safety regulations aimed at keeping participants home. In some cases, attempts are being made to do infusions at home; in others, the studies are allowing a drug hiatus. And many investigational drug trials outside of the Alzheimer’s center have also been suspended.”

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