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HOPE Inspired by Curiosity and Gala support

The current COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak is a global pandemic. Numbers are increasing and there is an urgent need to understand why some patients infected with COVID-19 require hospitalization and possibly ventilation or die and yet others remain essentially unaffected. This question has been posed by researchers around the world. But here in West Michigan, YOU are giving researchers the ability to search for answers. Thanks to philanthropy and your Gala 2020 giving, Spectrum Health, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, is utilizing genomics to better understand and care for patients with COVID-19. “Research we began in children with rare diseases can be applied in real time to an unparalleled pandemic that mainly affects adults,” said Caleb Bupp, MD, section chief of genetics and genomics. “This allows us to maximize the effect of philanthropic support for research by creating a collaborative network of physicians and scientists that can pivot to what needs study most urgently.” With the help of advanced genomic sequencing, Spectrum Health is analyzing immune responses by identifying cellular changes in the blood, genetic weaknesses in the immune system, the presence of viral or bacterial infection, and markers of internal organ damage. This information is desperately needed by medical professionals to enhance care for COVID-19 patients. The team of researchers involved in this includes Dr. Caleb Bupp, Jeremy Prokop, MD, Marc McClelland, MD, Nick Hartog, MD, David Chesla, and Surender (Raja) Rajasekaran, MD. Understanding a disease that has a broad impact requires a team with varied expertise working together toward a common goal. “Walking into rooms to consent these patients led to some of the most touching moments of my research career,” said Dr. Raja. “On introducing the research opportunity, some of the patients wanted to know what I hoped would come from the research. In the midst of personally dealing with the real consequences of a serious illness, some patients said they wanted to participate to hopefully spare others from suffering through a COVID-19 infection.” Dr. Raja said, “Through this critical research, we hope that one day we can determine which patients impacted by COVID-19 will need immediate attention, as well as those who would benefit from anti-inflammatory agents, need antibiotics to treat secondary infection or even require advanced organ support systems like extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.” This research would not be possible without philanthropic support. You and patients with COVID-19 participating in the research are giving hope through curiosity that is transforming care and saving lives. The Spectrum Health Gala 2020 event didn’t happen, but your program support and generosity provided more than $780,000 that fits into the larger goal of advancing precision medicine and genomics at Spectrum Health for our patients, families and community. Thank you for being in this together.

Hope is inspired by you. Together, we are stronger. Together, we will see this through.

Through ongoing precision genomics studies of immune disorder patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, we have shown that the genetics of these disorders are very complex. Rare genetic differences often require both an infection and genetic underpinnings to activate a disease or condition, making identifying the root cause challenging. These patients are often hospitalized, meaning that discoveries have a significant and long-lasting impact. These types of situations are the reason your gala dollars and donations are providing hope for patients like: