Columbia COVID-19 Biobank Team

Department Thanks Incredible Columbia Covid-19 Biobank Team

On March 31, 2020, a few days after Department of Pathology and Cell Biology announced its plan to build a university-wide resource that would harbor COVID19 patient bio-specimens, the COVID-19 biobank opened at Columbia University to collect, process, store and disseminate biological specimens and clinical data for researchers at Columbia University and elsewhere.

Álvaro Cuesta-Domínguez, PhD, an associate research scientist in physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, was the leader of the volunteer biobanking team, which started off with eight volunteers of CRAC (Columbia Researchers Against COVID-19) and eventually grew to a total of 18.

By the time the project came to an end on June 5, the team donated a total of 423.5 hours to building this critical resource and helped generate close to 35000 samples from thousands of unique COVID-19 patients, for 10 weeks in a row. These samples have immeasurable value to scientists working to understand this novel coronavirus’ biology and to shed light on the different patient outcomes upon infection.

These remarkable achievements were made “under stressful circumstances, and with complete altruism”, in the words of Steven Spitalnik, MD, professor of pathology and cell biology, and vice chair of clinical pathology. All the team members had to leave the comfort and safety of their homes to altruistically take part in this endeavor. Moreover, several members of the team also volunteered in other CRAC projects, such as the serological assays, the NYP scrub distribution and so on. Every day they showed up to the COVID19 lab with their best smiles and performed their duties with rigor, professionalism and strictest measures of protection. As of the date of completion, none of the volunteers reported having been sick, nor developed COVID19 symptoms or tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Speaking of their remarkable work, Eldad Hod, MD, associate professor of pathology and cell biology and the lead investigator of the clinical study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center that is screening the blood of COVID-19 survivors for antibodies, says: “We are very proud and thankful for the hard work put into creating the biorepository. We could not have banked so many samples without your support and I already know how valuable they are proving to be. ….. Now these samples are being used to help Columbia researchers better characterize the disease. You have performed an extraordinary service for the common good and deserve a tremendous amount of gratitude from me and the entire Columbia community.”.

Kevin Roth, MD, PhD, chair of pathology and cell biology, also says: “All I can say is thank you. You are a remarkable group and I am amazed with your compassion and dedication. You have made a real difference.”. 

The work of those non-CRAC staff should also be recognized. They came from the various labs, divisions, and administration of the department, providing tremendous support behind the scenes so that CRAC volunteers could focus on their work.

The department thanks all the incredible CRAC biobank team members and non-CRAC staff for their phenomenal work in building an outstanding research tool that is enabling critical SARS-CoV-2 and COVID19 studies.


Covid-19 Biobank Team Members:

​​Manager: Dr. Alvaro Cuesta-Domínguez
​​Volunteers: Dr. Florence Borot, Dr. Eddy Wang, Dr. Sarah See, Dr. Francesco Cambuli, Simon Guillot, Dr. Alberto Herranz-Bartolomé, Dr. Marta Galán-Díez, Dr. Gwennaelle Monnot, Dr. Meghan Bucher, Kalle Liimatta, Dr. Jaya Pradhan, Jiani Liang, Dr. Claudio Gouveia Martins Roque, Dr. Ilenia Pellicciotta, Dr. Panos Oikonomou, Dr. Chiara Camillo and Dr. Sophie Colombo