Weathering the cytokine storm in COVID-19

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Webinar Description: 

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. COVID-19 symptoms, including systemic inflammatory response and multi-system organ failure, are now affecting thousands of SARS-CoV-2–infected patients and causing widespread mortality.  Life-threatening “cytokine storms” involving the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., tumor necrosis factor-α; interleukin-6, -1, and -8; and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) may contribute to the rapid systemic organ failure observed in select critically ill COVID-19 patients. Therefore, controlling inflammatory responses to COVID-19 may be as important as anti-viral therapies. A paradigm shift is emerging in our understanding of the resolution of inflammation as an active biochemical process with the discovery of novel endogenous specialized pro-resolving lipid autacoid mediators (SPMs), such as resolvins. SPMs stimulate macrophage-mediated clearance of debris and counter pro-inflammatory cytokine production—a process collectively termed the resolution of inflammation. The role of resolution of inflammation in COVID-19 remains of interest. Mortality due to COVID-19 is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, whereas COVID-19 itself can also induce myocardial injury, acute coronary syndrome, and venous thromboembolism.

Key Learning Objectives:

  1. What is the cytokine storm in COVID-19?
  2. What are the therapeutic approaches to treating the cytokine storm in COVID-19?
  3. What is the resolution of inflammation and how is it different from anti-inflammation?
  4. Is stimulation of resolution a strategy to control the cytokine storm and hyper-inflammation in COVID-19? 
  5. Understand immune cell responses in the cytokine storm of severe COVID19 patients, and a) how the virus itself induces immune responses that negatively impact the cardiovascular system and the heart, b) how pre-existing inflammation in cardiovascular disease patients predisposes them to more severe cytokine storm and COVID-19.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Inflammation resolution: a dual-pronged approach to averting cytokine storms in COVID-19?
  2. Eicosanoids The Overlooked Storm in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
  3. COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease: from basic mechanisms to clinical perspectives
  4. Longitudinal analyses reveal immunological misfiring in severe COVID-19
  5. Pro-resolving lipid mediators are leads for resolution physiology
  6. Resolvins in inflammation: emergence of the pro-resolving superfamily of mediators

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Charles Serhan:

Dr. Serhan is the Simon Gelman Professor of Anaesthesia (Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology) at Harvard Medical School and also Professor of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He is Director of the Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Charles received a BS in biochemistry from Stony Brook University followed by a Doctorate in experimental pathology and medical sciences from New York University School of Medicine.  Dr. Serhan has experience leading multidisciplinary research teams as PI/PD for several NIH supported Program Project Grants and a P-50 Center Grant.  He has received several research awards including an NIH MERIT and international awards among these are the 2008 William Harvey Outstanding Scientist Medal and AAAS Fellow in 2011. In 2010, he received the SLB Bonazinga Award, The American College of Rheumatology Hench (Nobel Laurate) Award Lecture in 2011 presented by the Mayo Clinic Hench Society. In 2016, he received the Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine. Charles received the International Eicosanoid Research Foundation’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Society of Investigative Pathology 2018 Rous Whipple Award, and the 2018 Gaddum International Prize and Award Lecture from the British Pharmacology Society. 

Dr. Dipak Panigrahy:

Dr. Dipak Panigrahy was accepted to medical school while still in high school, and trained as a physician-scientist. He has become an expert in the field of cancer and inflammation. Dr. Panigrahy has extensive expertise in complex techniques of modeling cancer in animals. The Panigrahy laboratory has established novel debris-stimulated chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and carcinogen cancer models to study eicosanoid and cytokine storms relevant to COVID-19 and cancer. The novelty of these studies is demonstrated as his laboratory has won over 50 awards for their studies on lipid autacoids in cancer. He has chaired over 15 symposiums and given over 50 invited lectures on lipid autacoids in cancer at national/international meetings over the past five years. Dr. Panigrahy is an Assistant Professor of Pathology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Pilar Alcaide

Dr. Pilar Alcaide has a PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology. She is an Associate Professor of Immunology and the Kenneth and JoAnn G. Wellner Professor at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Her current research focusses on T cell responses in heart disease. 

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Daisy Shu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Harvard University

Eric Perkins, PhD
Director of Product Management

Samira Kiani, MD
Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020 EST
4:00 pm

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Sponsored by the ASIP Committee for Career Development and Diversity


Andrew W. Duncan, PhD
University of Pittsburgh

Daisy Shu, PhD
Harvard University

Chad Walesky, PhD
Harvard University

Gina LaBorde

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New Mechanism of Fibronectin Fibril Assembly Revealed by Live Imaging and Superresolution Microscopy

Sophie Astrof
Rutgers University

Cell-Scale Biophysical Cues from Collagen Fiber Architecture Instruct Cell Behavior and the Propagation of Mechanosensory Signals

Suzanne Ponik
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Decellularized Extracellular Matrix Scaffolds Identify Collagen VI as a Driver of Breast Cancer Cell Invasion in Obesity and Metastasis

Madeleine Oudin
Tufts University

Meeting Co-Chairs:

Joan Chang
University of Manchester, UK

Davy Vanhoutte
Cincinnatti Children’s Hospital Medical Center, USA

Ryan Petrie
Drexel University, USA

Also of interest

Virtual Conferences: How will conferencing change after COVID?

Many of us were getting ready for spring conference season when COVID hit. Now, however, we need to look to the future of conferencing and consider what will change when it comes to conferencing post COVID.

Will anything Change?

My answer to this… absolutely not. I think people will be so anxious to get outside they will sprint to the nearest opportunity to leave the lab. Conferencing is the most essential opportunity for trainees to showcase their research and meet with potential advisers. The scientific community will continue to conference regularly after COVID and I do not think much will change in the end. However, we have to consider that our travel internationally might be hindered for the next 2-5 years. So how do we respond to this?

Virtual Reality Conferences?

With virtual reality starting to take flight we have to entertain the option of hosting virtual conferences. Imagine waking up from home, eating your Wheaties, and then putting on your VR glasses to transport yourself to EB2022? Its not very different from what we are currently doing in this period of virtual meetings. Sitting in on a talk would be easy, but what about poster sessions? It is hard to hop posters via zoom, but a virtual conference hall could solve this problem. All of this technology exists and we have the ability to generate this kind of platform.

A recent article in Nature discussed how conference platforms have been adapting since COVID. This article does an excellent job discussing how the lack of intimacy that comes with this kind of platform can remove the purpose of conferences. I agree. Physical face-to-face contact goes so much further than anything technology can offer. A VR conference would completely remove that intimate interaction and make interactions awkward. Can you imagine walking up to an animated version of me and listen to me talk about colorectal cancer in mice…?

VR conferences are a great way to keep us rolling as a scientific community as we crawl out of this crisis. However, we cannot ignore the most essential feature that makes us human, and that is the ability to intimately interact with one another. Lets do what we can for now but not compromise our values when it comes to returning back to normal. We cannot get too comfortable conferencing from home that we forget why we do this in the beginning.

Have you attended any virtual conferences since COVID? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Interested in contributing original content to the ASIP blog? Contact me at to get involved!


The ASIP is hosting another free virtual hangout for trainee and junior members June 11th at 4P.M. EST. The goal of this virtual hangout is to bring scientists together to share their stories about life during COVID and the obstacles they have had to overcome. We are hosting another because our first session was a great success. If you are interested please register by clicking the link below:


PISA 2020 is still being planned! Join your fellow ASIP members at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston November 7-9, 2020. Get news and updates at

Interested in becoming a member of ASIP? Contact me at

Post COVID-19 world: Is STEM academia in trouble?

Class of 2020, how does it feel? No giant ceremony, no group photos, and worst of all no family. Thousands of students from high school through professional degree programs graduated the Class of 2020 this past weekend. This year is definitely unique, but the Spring 2020 semester is likely going to set the stage for a major change in the dynamic of education for the foreseeable future.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the ease and applicability of virtual education. Suddenly instructors were able to sit from the comfort of their home or office and perform the same job they had been doing all along. So, what does this mean for post-pandemic academia? A recent article published on brought to light the potential of asynchronous (Canvas, Blackboard-type) and synchronous (Zoom-type) platforms that are being brought together to eliminate the need for face-to-face learning.

But is this what we need? We are already falling behind the curve in most subjects as an American nation. At the medical school level, we already face this reality, with most medical students skipping class to spend extra time studying and just reviewing the lecture online at their leisure.

I think we can take this opportunity to create a large paradigm shift in education that has been long overdue.

Is a virtual world a bad one for scientists?

I am all for bringing more technology and virtual instruction into the classroom and I think it would be a great use of resources. However, we cannot use this as an excuse to get lazy with our teaching methods. Now I am not going to comment on some liberal arts fields, but a world without labs or actual hands-on instruction could put us into a worse position. If we are going to go to a virtual instruction paradigm, we need to compensate with more hands-on education and application of materials.

I remember not understanding anything from organic chemistry lecture and then stepping into lab that week and having everything click in my mind. I always tell my students that they can know the whole process of an experiment (i.e. western blotting) and it won’t mean anything unless they go through the pain-staking process of failing and learning the process with their hands. My point being, we cannot condemn students to a virtual ‘education’ when real work is done in the lab after years of learning and perfecting your techniques.

How can science benefit from a paradigm change?

I have had this conversation many times, but I remember one distinct debate at a recent conference where we discussed the potential for obtaining doctoral level degrees outside of academia. Imagine getting a degree through a company like Pfizer or Eli Lilly? Take your courses virtually while learning your basic biotechnology techniques and then jump into your ‘internship’ where you learn from experts in the field and you are part of a research team. The link between the private sector and academia could benefit from this kind of scenario, bringing big $$$ to academia while standardizing the training of scientists.

What is certain is that we are going to see major changes in academia as a result of this crisis. We are already seeing some funding cuts and unfavorable changes to our lifestyles as scientists. We need to come out of this crisis stronger and advocating for more responsibility in our education system, not an excuse to push learning to a lazier platform.

What do you think? Are you starting to see changes you like? or don’t like? What would you like to see happen in academia as result of the COVID-19 shutdown? Share in the comments below!

Interested in contributing original content to the ASIP blog? Contact me at to get involved!

ASIP Virtual Hangout for Trainee Members

The ASIP is hosting a free virtual hangout for trainee and junior members. The goal of this virtual hangout is to bring together scientists to share their stories about life during COVID and the obstacles they have had to overcome. The first session is currently being organized and will be announced once we have a firm date. If you are interested in registering, please send an email to


PISA 2020 is still happening! Join your fellow ASIP members at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston November 7-9, 2020.

Interested in becoming a member of ASIP? Contact me at