Figuring out how genes influence responses to the virus could help the development of effective treatments or vaccines, or even point to an existing drug that could be repurposed as a covid-19 drug. Such repurposing is not new: Aspirin was developed as a painkiller but is commonly used as a blood thinner to prevent heart attack.

In early March, we started talking about the possible role of genetics in responses to the virus. When we reached out to fellow geneticists in other countries, we quickly realized that we weren’t the only ones thinking along those lines.

A few weeks later, we launched the Covid-19 Host Genetics Initiative, which aims to bring together scientific groups around the world to study the role of the human genome in explaining covid-19 severity and susceptibility.

What have we learned so far? From a scientific perspective, the effort is in its infancy, but we expect to have first study results by the end of May. For a completely new kind of global genetics collaboration, we are moving at an unprecedented speed.