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Expert: It’s Vaccines vs. Variants in a Race Against Time

Authority on Disease Biology Available for Interviews

Blue background with image of COVID-19 virus
UMass Lowell Prof. Matt Nugent is available as source to talk about diseases processes behind COVID-19.

07/27/2021

Contacts for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu and Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this week more than 83 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country are due to the disease’s Delta variant, as the original strain of the illness that sparked the worldwide pandemic is no longer detectable in the nation. The development sets up a race between what are now effective vaccines and potential new strains of the disease that may evolve to evade detection and cause even more sickness, according to a UMass Lowell disease expert available for interviews. 

The latest CDC figures show 69 percent of adults in the country have received at least one vaccination against COVID-19, although immunization is a two-dose process for individuals who receive a vaccine manufactured by either Moderna or Pfizer. The disease remains highly contagious, as the U.S. is still short of achieving the needed “herd immunity” of 70 to 90 percent of the population vaccinated, which would significantly slow transmission, according to the American Lung Association.   

“While the vaccines work well, we have not conquered the pandemic yet. The virus is constantly evolving to find ways around our defenses. Each infection provides the virus with literally billions of chances to mutate and these mutations could lead to a new spike protein in the virus that has the potential to avoid being recognized by the antibodies our immune system produces to fight the disease. This is why it is so important that we all get vaccinated. If the virus can’t find anyone to infect, it can’t keep mutating,” said Matthew Nugent, an expert in disease biology, biochemistry and biotechnology.

Nugent and his research team have been studying human disease at the molecular level for more than 30 years. He is available to discuss:
  • The mechanisms behind coronavirus infection;
  • The science that drives the COVID-19 vaccines;
  • How viral variants develop;
  • How vaccination can prevent further disease spread.
Nugent serves as the associate dean for research, innovation and partnerships in UMass Lowell’s Kennedy College of Sciences, where he is a professor of biological sciences. To arrange an interview with him via phone, email, Zoom or other teleconferencing platform, contact Nancy Cicco at Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu or 978-934-4944 or Christine Gillette at Christine_Gillette@uml.edu or 978-758-4664.