The Ragon Institute: Harnessing the Immune System to Combat COVID-19

The Ragon Institute: Harnessing the Immune System to Combat COVID-19

Apr 22

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Image: Scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2 virus emerging from cells. Image courtesy of NIAID


Cambridge, MA, April 22, 2020: The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, a world leader in human immunology and infectious diseases, is leading efforts to understand and combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our response is built on our core value of cross-disciplinary collaboration, catalyzed by recent philanthropic funding from Mark and Lisa Schwartz.



Ragon Institute Director Bruce Walker, MD, is co-director of the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness (MassCPR). Additionally, Ragon Group Leader Galit Alter, PhD, and Steering Committee members Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, and Arup Chakraborty, PhD, are co-leading MassCPR working groups, while multiple Ragon Group Leaders and Members are active within the consortium.


Research Efforts

Dan Barouch, MD, PhD: Dr. Barouch, Ragon Steering Committee member, is developing a COVID-19 vaccine, supported by Ragon funding and funding from Mark and Lisa Schwartz. Clinical trials are expected to begin this fall, supported by Johnson & Johnson and the US Department of Health and Human Services.


Xu Yu, MD: Dr. Yu, Ragon Group Leader, in collaboration with Jonathon Li, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is collecting and analyzing biological samples from COVID-19 patients and at-risk populations to better understand the course of the disease. These samples are being studied in the Ragon and made available to the 150 scientists who are members of the MassCPR.


Galit Alter, PhD: Dr. Alter, Ragon Group Leader, is developing antibody tests to better understand the extent of the outbreak, as well as antibody profiling tests to help understand how immunity-granting antibodies develop in response to COVID-19 infection. These studies are critical for efforts to allow people to return to work.


Aaron Schmidt, PhD: Dr. Schmidt, Ragon Group Leader, is producing coronvirus proteins, including the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, for use in diagnostic tests and research labs in a massive collaborative effort spanning Massachusetts, the USA, and the world, with support from Ragon Group Leader Daniel Lingwood, PhD.


Doug Kwon, MD, PhD: Dr. Kwon, Ragon Group Leader, is studying SARS-CoV-2 virus in the gastrointestinal tract, which may impact disease outcome. Working with the Yilmaz lab at MIT, he is also using 3D organoid cultures to model SARS-CoV-2 infection in the gut and lungs.


Alejandro Balazs, PhD: Dr. Balazs, Ragon Group Leader, is developing neutralization assays to find and understand antibodies that can successfully prevent spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the body.


About the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard

The Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard was established in 2009, with a gift from the Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon Foundation, to harness the immune system to combat and cure human diseases. The Ragon Institute draws scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise across the Harvard and MIT communities, and throughout the world, to apply the full arsenal of scientific knowledge to understanding mechanisms of the immune system to benefit patients. For more information about the Ragon Institute, visit


Contact: Rachel Leeson, Public Affairs Coordinator,