BBI’s Scientific Director Dr. Jay Shendure and Principal Investigator Dr. Helen Chu briefed Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday (April 16th) on the institute’s work regarding the Seattle Flu Study, progress on studying COVID-19 transmission and variants, and other issues.
Dr. Paul Ramsey, UW Medicine CEO, also participated in the 25-minute meeting at the UW Medicine Virology Lab in Seattle.
After briefly explaining BBI’s history, Shendure noted the launch of the flu study in 2017, “our first flagship project,” to transform how respiratory disease outbreaks are detected, monitored, and controlled.
“The timing was fortuitous,” he said. “Fast forward to early 2020. We discovered one of the first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. And quickly pivoted to create SCAN (the greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network).”
Chu noted that Inslee was especially interested in “Prevent COVID U,” a nationwide project testing the Moderna vaccine with up to 12,000 students on 21 campuses. She is the site investigator in Seattle, overseeing the testing of UW students.
“This is an opportunity to track infections in unprecedented detail,” she told the governor. “Moreover, developing surveillance platforms, implementing testing strategies in vulnerable populations, and studying the protection afforded by vaccines, are all helping to illuminate our exit strategy from this pandemic.”
Inslee said that, as governor, he felt fortunate to have UW Medicine’s resources – knowledge, infrastructure, innovation – in helping address COVID-19. He also noted that his father, a high school science teacher, had instructed him on significant scientific discoveries, such as the double helix, the description of the structure of a DNA molecule.
“In response to questions from journalists, Governor Inslee promoted our state’s science-driven approach to pandemic,” Shendure said.
Chu had underscored that point earlier with the governor.
“We’ve learned how one incident halfway around the world can affect – and infect – us in a matter of weeks, she said. “We’ve learned the consequences of not trusting the science. And we have learned the value of precision science at the intersection of epidemiology and technology. This is future of medicine.”