August 19, 2020

Our research advancing COVID-19 prevention and treatment

Kaiser Permanente scientists and clinicians are running clinical trials and tracking trends in patient care.

Jeff Eisenman participates in a vaccine clinical trial at Santa Clara Medical Center.

Scientists throughout Kaiser Permanente are working with clinicians and institutions across the country to improve understanding of COVID-19 and develop tools to prevent and treat the disease.

Vaccine trials

Research scientists from Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Northern California, Center for Health Research in the Northwest, and Department of Research & Evaluation in Southern California are participating in phase 3 trials of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

In addition, scientists at Kaiser Permanente Health Research Institute in Seattle are now enrolling participants in phase 3 trials of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Moderna Inc. co-developed vaccine.

Lisa A Jackson, MD, MPH, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Health Research Institute, led phase 1 of this first-in-human clinical trial, which was developed and produced in record time.

“The world urgently needs vaccines to protect against COVID-19,” Dr. Jackson said. “We are glad to be able to contribute to these efforts.”

The NIAID-Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are among 5 vaccines selected by National Institutes of Health for high priority development.

Remdesivir clinical trials

Scientists at Kaiser Permanente are also participating in other clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of drug treatments for COVID-19.

Kaiser Permanente hospitals were among the world’s largest enrollers of patients into remdesivir clinical trials. Trials took place in 152 medical facilities worldwide, including 17 Kaiser Permanente hospitals — 15 in California and 2 in the Northwest.

“We were able to mobilize and quickly set up a multisite clinical trial — something that normally takes months — in a matter of days,” said William Towner, MD, principal investigator for the remdesivir clinical trials at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

Current data show that remdesivir shortens the time to recovery for people hospitalized with COVID-19. “An NIH-sponsored trial is now being conducted by Kaiser Permanente to examine if adding an immunosuppressive agent to remdesivir can provide additional benefit for patients,” said Richard Mularski, MD, who leads the trial at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in the Northwest.

Convalescent plasma study

Several Kaiser Permanente regions are participating in a Mayo Clinic-led observational study in which blood plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 is used to treat some patients with severe COVID-19 or those at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19. The theory is that a donor's plasma contains antibodies that may be able to attack the virus to help patients recover more rapidly.

Trends in patient care

Our scientists and physicians are using Kaiser Permanente’s robust data to better assess and manage risk for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. One study is assessing the risks associated with taking antihypertensive medications in patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection and high blood pressure.

Researchers are also studying how the pandemic may affect trends in care for conditions other than COVID-19. For example, despite the availability of immediate emergency care, research by Kaiser Permanente showed that the weekly number of patients admitted to Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California for heart attacks after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic fell to nearly half of what would be expected. The findings were reported in a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kaiser Permanente’s extensive research capabilities are helping to identify solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our structure as an integrated health system means we have a direct pathway to incorporate our research findings into the clinical care our members receive. Learn more about research at Kaiser Permanente.