Microsoft, Seattle Biotech Buying COVID-19 Patients' Blood, Volunteers 'in the Hundreds'

Microsoft and a Seattle biotech firm jointly launched a study on how the human immune system fights COVID-19, with $250 potentially in store for the 1,000 participants.
Brad Bergan

Microsoft and a Seattle-based biotech firm called Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. jointly launched a new study to examine how the human immune system fights COVID-19, with plans to collect blood samples door-to-door, according to a Microsoft press release.


Microsoft, Adaptive Buying COVID-19 Patients' Blood

The goal of the joint venture is to learn how T cells — the expendable pawns of our immune systems — help the body adequately respond to the coronavirus. As of writing, the study has garnered volunteers "in the hundreds," said Beth Keshishian, Adaptive's Director of Corporate Communications, to Interesting Engineering.

The study is accepting eligible groups of people — exposed, infected, or recovered from the virus — who live within 60 miles of 23 major metropolitan areas, according to Business Insider. On Friday, Keshishian said it was open for people of "24 major markets."

Those confirmed to have COVID-19 via a positive test result or diagnosis from a healthcare provider may enroll online by filling out a digital questionnaire. Once selected, researchers in the study will send a phlebotomist to come to the volunteers' homes and draw blood samples. The technician will be clad in protective equipment, and will also carry out a nasal or throat swab.

Immune system study incentive, 10-to-12 week enrollment

The reward for completing the initial study is a $50 gift card, with the option to participate in a further four blood draws through a two-month timeframe. The lucky ones who do all five blood draws could make $250 in gift cards.

Other scientists have already investigated the body's immune response to COVID-19, but a Business Insider report says Adaptive and Microsoft perceive an epistemic blindspot in the study of T cells amid other concurrent coronavirus studies.

To fill the gap in knowledge about how the body combats coronavirus infection, Adaptive and Microsoft are reportedly prepping to send phlebotomists to homes of those who were previously exposed to the virus, those who are already sick, and the lucky survivors of infection — for a sample of their blood.

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While the money reward in the form of gift cards is an incentive, the potential of the study to decode some of the deepest mysteries about the coronavirus would make all participants minor heroes and perhaps a new object of the habitual seven o'clock cheers heard every day.

However, while Business Insider reported Adaptive's Chief Medical Officer Lance Baldo saying results may come out in June, Keshishian said the biotech company "is hoping for full enrollment in 10 to 12 weeks," which means researchers won't be able to complete the full scope of the study until a later time.

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