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The NBA is working with the Mayo Clinic on a coronavirus antibody study

Published May 20th, 2020 5:02PM EDT
NBA coronavirus
Image: Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • All 30 NBA teams are going to be taking part in a coronavirus antibody study led by the Mayo Clinic as part of a newly announced effort to determine how many players and coaches have developed antibodies.
  • This is a key step toward the league, which suspended its season two months ago, being able to safely start back up again.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

All 30 NBA teams are expected to participate in a newly announced coronavirus antibody study led by the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Although, that belies the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has struck closer to home for some teams more than others.

Take the Minnesota Timberwolves, for example. Star center Karl-Anthony Towns lost his mother to the coronavirus last month, making his team one of the first to truly understand the deadliness of the virus. The Timberwolves practice facility is also just about an hour away from the Mayo Clinic, which will use a finger prick to draw blood to try and determine how many of the league’s coaches and players have developed coronavirus antibodies, according to Reuters.

The clinic, which received a $100,000 donation from Towns to help support its coronavirus testing efforts, is hoping to show this antibody testing method is able to be replicated on a wider scale in future studies. This comes as some NBA teams are starting to open their practice facilities back up, but under strict oversight from the league — and also only after the facilities have implemented rigorous new cleaning and social distancing policies.

The Timberwolves’ own practice facility is set to open back up again on Thursday.

Understanding how antibodies are formed and interact with the virus is widely regarded as one of the missing links needed to get humanity to the next stage of this crisis. That, along with the identification of a successful vaccine as well as therapeutics, are the tools needed to finally begin to get the COVID-19 pandemic — which has so far infected almost 5 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University — under some kind of control.

“We are learning about this disease,” Dr. Robby Sikka, vice president of basketball performance and technology for the Timberwolves, told ESPN. “We have learned a lot in two months. So if we can take the next two months, learn on the fly, mitigate risk, then we can move pretty quickly to do the right things to have safe play.”

On a hopeful note, regarding antibody-focused research: Researchers are working on a new type of drug that’s related to plasma therapy — antibody-based medications that can offer the same kind of protection as a plasma transfusion. Additionally, one of the antibodies capable of blocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus from binding to cells has proven to be 100% effective in labs.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.