UChicago partners on effort to pair public with researchers in fight against COVID-19

Nine top universities and hospitals launch tool to find volunteers for clinical trials

The University of Chicago has joined eight top universities and hospitals in launching a social movement and free tool to match the public with health research opportunities that need volunteers in the hunt to discover treatments, vaccines and what the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term impacts will be on survivors.

“One of the biggest slowdowns in doing health research is finding the people to participate,” said Julian Solway, dean for Translational Medicine at the University of Chicago. “We’re in the fight of our lifetimes, and the world needs more answers faster than ever as our teams race to find COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.”

COVID-19 has infected more than 1.7 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 101,000 individuals. Little is known about the virus, and scientists have created more than 1,600 clinical trials to search for answers and cures. But those trials cannot take place without volunteer participants.

“Clinical trials literally can’t happen without the engagement of the general public,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, director of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. “The scientists could be the best in the world and the study could be extremely promising, but a clinical trial cannot take place without people volunteering to join. We’re calling for volunteers to help fight COVID-19 and other diseases.”

The New Normal (TNN)™ movement will increase public awareness of health research and make it easy to access information about studies including cancer, diabetes and more. The mobile tool, called TNN Match, matches people with health researchers who need volunteers.

“Researchers are often fluent in a scientific language that the rest of the world doesn’t understand,” said Sara Serritella, director of The New Normal™ movement. “TNN breaks down communication barriers and engages local communities, patients, scientists, and local and national experts to make health research accessible for everyone at a time when human health needs human help more than ever.”

The New Normal™ movement is funded by the National Institutes of Health and made possible through the collaboration of nine top hospitals and universities: The University of Chicago, Rush, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, NorthShore University Health System, Illinois Institute of Technology, Advocate Health Care and the University of Michigan.

“This is a momentous collaboration among NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program hubs,” said Prof. Lainie Ross, director of the ITM at UChicago and associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. “We’re grateful to everyone for their partnership and for quickly mobilizing to make health research opportunities easily accessible to the public during this pandemic.”