Press Room

UW Medicine and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Announce Study to Determine Prevalence of COVID-19 Infection Across Washington State

Seattle, WA — Jul 21 2020

New study to help guide state officials in response efforts

Today, the Washington State Department of Health, UW Medicine and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced the launch of a major study to determine the percentage of Washingtonians who have been infected by COVID-19. UW Medicine's Virology Laboratory will conduct the study in close partnership with state and local public health agencies, sampling across rural and urban populations throughout the state and within racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse communities.

"Data is a crucial tool in helping us fight this pandemic and safely reopening our economy," Gov. Jay Inslee said. "This study and partnership will provide vital insights about the trajectory of COVID-19 in Washington, informing our response and allowing us to better protect Washingtonians."

All 7,000 study participants will receive a diagnostic COVID-19 test followed by three antibody tests over the course of eight months. By including 7,000 participants, the study will provide statistically valid information about the distribution of COVID-19 in communities within our state. The results of the first antibody tests will indicate the baseline prevalence of infection to date. In addition to infection rates, the study will examine how long COVID-19 antibodies persist. This will inform the Department of Health's assessments and safety guidelines to control COVID-19 infections in communities across the state.

"As one of the first in the country to develop a COVID-19 test, UW Medicine has invested millions of dollars to build significant capacity for both COVID-19 and antibody testing at scale," said Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the Virology Division at UW Medicine. Jerome is the principal investigator of the study and directs multiple virology labs. Dr. Mark Wener, who directs the Immunology Division, will serve as the co-investigator and assist in the implementation.

The antibody tests will be processed at the UW Medicine Virology Lab, using the Abbott Architect SARS-CoV-2 IgG assay, which has been shown to have an extremely high degree of accuracy, to ensure that the resulting data is valid for use in statewide policy decisions. UW Medicine scientists were involved in evaluating the specificity of the test and are confident of its accuracy.

This study is funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and builds on the Foundation's previous support of UW Medicine's COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which has raised more than $30 million to date.

"Comprehensive, high-quality data that statistically represents Washington's diverse communities and populations is critical to support the state's healthcare response and reopening," said Jody Allen, co-founder and chair of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. "This statewide study will provide a necessary baseline understanding of COVID-19 presence in communities to inform smart policy decisions as we all move forward with Washington's economic and health recovery."

To learn more about this state-wide study, please visit UW Medicine Virology Lab.

Additional quotes from representatives of the Washington State Legislature

"This important study will help us better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 across Washington State, as well as make significant contributions to larger scientific questions that will benefit global efforts to address the pandemic," said Senator John Braun.

"I'm encouraged that this study will help provide additional context to understand the disparate impact of COVID-19 on populations outside of those that currently have greatest access to testing," said Senator Mark Mullet.


About UW Medicine
UW Medicine is one of the top-rated academic medical systems in the world. With a mission to improve the health of the public, UW Medicine educates the next generation of physicians and scientists, leads one of the world's largest and most comprehensive biomedical research programs, and provides outstanding care to patients from across the globe. The School of Medicine faculty is second in the nation in federal research grants and contracts with $923.1 million in total revenue (fiscal year 2018) according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

About the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
For more than four decades the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has focused on changing the trajectory of some of the world's toughest problems. Founded by philanthropists Jody Allen and the late Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, the Foundation initially invested in community needs across the Pacific Northwest with a focus on regional arts, under-served populations, and the environment. Today, the Foundation supports a global portfolio of frontline partners working to preserve ocean health, protect wildlife, combat climate change, and strengthen communities. The Foundation invests in grantees to leverage technology, fill data and science gaps, and drive positive public policy to advance knowledge and enable lasting change.


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