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Harvard Ramping Down Lab Research, 'Low Productivity' Likely To Last At Least 6-8 Weeks

Harvard Medical School (Wikimedia Commons)
Harvard Medical School (Wikimedia Commons)

Update: The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, one of the country's top biomedical research centers, plans to wrap-up non-critical lab activities by March 18 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In an email to employees, Broad president and founder Eric Lander said that the vast majority of lab science will be put on hold by end-of day-Wednesday. Lander says he doesn’t know when non-critical lab activities will resume, but expects the pause "will last at least a few weeks."

Lander noted that teams at the Broad Institute researching COVID-19 will be allowed to continue their work, and in some cases may expand.

The deans of Harvard's medical, dental and public health schools are asking research staffers and students to help develop a "rapid ramp-down" strategy for most research to enable the social distancing called for in the coronavirus outbreak.

In a community email sent out Friday morning, the three deans write that lab chiefs will aim to enter a period of "low productivity" by this coming Wednesday, and it "will likely last at least six to eight weeks."

They're requiring that all meetings and courses be held virtually, and that no more than two or three staffers "manage animal husbandry and essential experiments — those that if discontinued would generate significant financial and data loss."

The deans — George Daley of the medical school, Vicki Rosen of the dental school and Michelle A. Williams of the school of public health — also write that the time can be used for reflection and for "writing grant proposals, reviewing articles, writing thesis chapters, conducting analyses, compiling data and/or synthesizing important research.

And they conclude: "We are facing a potentially catastrophic crisis for our health care system. This is our chance to act decisively, rise to the occasion and protect our community. The time to act is now, and your partnership and commitment to the greater good are essential."

Harvard recently announced a $115 million partnership with Chinese researchers to research coronavirus-related science, and that partnership is expected to continue.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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