COVID-19 Pandemic: 3rd Annual CN – NIAID Virtual Symposium


Leading experts came together at the 3rd Annual Children’s National – NIAID Virtual Symposium to highlight the incredible work being done to fight the COVID-19 pandemic globally, with a strong emphasis on the health of the pediatric population.

More than 1,000 registrants from across multi-disciplinary fields and clinical institutions nationwide joined together on Sept. 29 for the 3rd Annual Children’s National – NIAID Virtual Symposium. Leading experts highlighted the incredible work being done to fight the COVID-19 pandemic globally, with a strong emphasis on the health of the pediatric population. This much anticipated event featured Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and member of The White House Coronavirus Task Force. Dr. Fauci presented a disease overview with lessons learned, current case numbers and the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines.

This day-long event, to discuss this year’s innovative collaborations in novel research and science, was co-hosted by Children’s National Hospital and the NIAID. This unique partnership was designed to advance children’s health through integrated research and knowledge sharing, as well as with innovative approaches of infectious disease treatments with joint clinical trials through the early 2021 opening of the first-in-its-kind Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus.

“We share a vision about doing what’s right for children and it’s just so wonderful to see that we’ve been able to break down the silos,” said Kurt Newman, M.D., president and CEO of Children’s National. He went on to tout breakthrough work on the pandemic with the NIH to establish the first pediatric drive-up/walk-up testing site in March, as well as coordination with worldwide thought leaders to be one of the earliest identifiers of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) in the country. His colleague and fellow speaker, Roberta DeBiasi, M.D., division chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s National, has been instrumental in advancing research into this rare (current 800 cases) but serious complication of COVID-19. Dr. DeBiasi helped form the Children’s National Multidisciplinary MIS-C Taskforce with varied experts to see the core issues, including in the fields of infectious diseases, cardiology, rheumatology and hematology.

The discussions at the symposium centered around three main topics: Immunobiology and Host Genomics, Epidemiology and Clinical Manifestations, and Treatment Strategies. There were robust questions and answers throughout to share experiences for advancement. The moderators were: Lisa Guay-Woodford, M.D., director of Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National; Catherine Bollard, M.D., director, Center for Cancer and Immunology at Children’s National; and Luigi Notarangelo, M.D., chief of Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology at the NIAID. Below are the speakers and the focus of their presentations.

  • Role of NCATS in the SARS-CoV-2 Response: Christopher P. Austin, M.D. (NCATS)
  • Humoral Immune Response: Jeffrey I. Cohen, M.D. (NIAID)
  • Cellular Response (T and NK Cells): Michael Keller, M.D. (Children’s National)
  • Immunopathogenesis of MIS-C:Sarah E. Henrickson, M.D., Ph.D. (CHOP)
  • Genomic Factors in SARS-CoV-2: Helen Su, M.D., Ph.D. (NIAID)
  • Health Disparities and SARS-CoV-2: Akilah Jefferson Shah, M.D., M.Sc. (UAMS)
  • Clinical Spectrum of SARS-CoV-2, Implication for Schools Reopening: Dan M. Cooper, M.D. (UC Irvine)
  • MIS-C and Post SARS-CoV-2 Monitoring in Children: Roberta DeBiasi, M.D., M.S. (Children’s National)
  • Post SARS-CoV-2 Monitoring in Adults: Michael C. Sneller, M.D. (NIAID)
  • Overview of Vaccine Candidates: Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D. (Baylor)
  • Current State of Vaccine Clinical Trials: Julie Ledgerwood, D.O. (NIAID)
  • Ongoing Therapeutic Trials and Treatment Guidelines: Cliff Lane, M.D. (NIAID)
  • Closing Remarks: SARS-CoV-2 What Comes Next – Societal/Economic Impact: Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D. (UPenn)

Organizers, Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National (CTSI-CN) and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at NIH (NCATS), wished to show not only the health consequences of COVID-19 and needed advances in treatments but, also, to stress the potential social and economic impacts as society moves forward with the pandemic.

Racial disparities and the need for equity was a focal point of the symposium too. According to Dr. Jefferson Shah minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to underlying conditions like poor nutrition and obesity. People are affected at a rate of 80% more with the social determinants, including children of color. In addition, factors that are more common in Black and Hispanic communities include multigenerational housing in low income areas and lack of telework options due to essential worker status.

Dr. Cooper stressed that race is a factor in the education system too. With school closures come decreased food options, safety and security, and wellness. Many minorities tend to be placed in public schools in cities with funding issues, which affects the ability to get proper resources for better education. During the pandemic, these issues were exacerbated with a lack of a daily support structure away from home. Services that children relied on were put on hold; this gap has contributed to poor nutrition, increased violence and mental illness. Academic Health Centers (AHCs) can help with innovative and necessary research into the unique attributes of children, as well as work on the solution of having successful plans in place to reopen (and keep open) schools.

A recurring theme throughout the presentations is that collaboration between agencies and institutions is crucial for development of better care and prevention. This is evidenced in the historic Operation Warp Speed that was founded on May 15. This public–private partnership, initiated by the Trump administration, facilitates and accelerates the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Along with Dr. Fauci, his colleagues Dr. Lane and Dr. Ledgerwood shared their involvement and praised the efforts of quick and effective collaboration – and all of government response in parallel with harmonized efficacy. Besides the ramp-up of ventilators, masks and tests, the current ambitious goal is to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine by Jan. 2021 (a record breaker with the disease just in this country since January 2020).

“There are now 11 candidates in Phase 3 trials throughout the world, including Moderna & BioNTech that happened on July 27. Probably one will be approved by November with priority distribution in December,” asserted Dr. Fauci.

In addition, it is imperative that with good data comes good sharing. Dr. Austin, the director of NCATS at NIH, said the founding motto there is “Collaborate. Innovate. Accelerate.” They created a portal to screen against targets and all available drugs to make data immediately available to the world. A harmonizer with high patient security is the key to analyzing the raw electronic health record data from differing platforms. This portal helps to make data usable quickly to aid in advancing research worldwide.

To view all the presentations from the symposium, click here.

For questions about the symposium or projects there contact