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Fighting COVID-19

Grenfell Campus science alumnus exploring role of antibodies

Research

By Janet Harron

Memorial alumnus Matthew Parsons (B.Sc.’07 and M.Sc.’10) is exploring the role of antibodies in preventing and treating COVID-19.

As an assistant research professor in the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., Dr. Parsons’ primary research focuses on HIV/AIDS.

He is now in the process of pivoting his current research towards a focus on COVID-19.

Antibody focus began at Grenfell

Originally from Cormack on the island’s West Coast, Dr. Parsons completed a PhD in experimental medicine at McGill University in 2013. After he conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Melbourne, he landed at Emory University.

A microbiology course during his undergraduate studies at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus sparked his fascination with HIV/AIDS and the science of immunology.

“Antibodies are versatile tools for preventing viral infection,” explained Dr. Parsons. “They do this by neutralization, which occurs when they bind to and block a region of the virus that is important for infecting cells. Antibodies can also eliminate virus and virally infected cells by binding to virus particles or infected cells and then attracting immune cells to eliminate viruses.”

Dr. Parsons’ team is working with other scientists at Emory University and the Université de Montréal to advance understanding of the use of antibodies for preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection.

His team is specifically examining what regions of the virus a donor’s antibodies target and what immune functions those antibodies trigger.

“We think a better understanding of antibody responses will facilitate more informed and effective antibody-based therapies and guide the vaccine development process.”

Dr. Parsons is hopeful his team will be able to generate SARS-CoV-2 antibody profiles by the summer.

More information about Dr. Parsons’ research is available online.


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