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Is it true that work on a COVID-19 vaccine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center was funded by Dolly Parton?

Funds from her gift have supported important advancements in VUMC’s war on COVID

by November 23, 2020

In March, 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, around the same time Dolly Parton made a donation to VUMC for COVID research, Mary Beth Rambo of the VUAH Access Center sent a message with her gloved hands while working at Screening Center. Photo by Susan Urmy

Answer: yes.

Dolly Parton made a gift in March to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in honor of her longtime friend, Naji Abumrad, MD, professor of Surgery, to support research teams working to perfect treatments and cures for COVID-19.

Dolly Parton

From her gift the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund was created. Funds have supported important advancements in VUMC’s war on COVID.

Parton was most recently mentioned in the news media for this gift after a study led by Mark Denison, MD, Edward Claiborne Stahlman Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, was recognized as a key contributor to the Phase 1 trial of a vaccine called mRNA-1273, which was developed by Moderna Inc. in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Research into this vaccine was reported in July in the New England Journal of Medicine. A VUMC Reporter story about that research is here.

In an interview with The New York Times on Nov. 17, Denison noted that Parton’s money funded what he called “critical” early stages of the research. “Her money helped us develop the test that we used to first show that the Moderna vaccine was giving people a good immune response that might protect them,” Denison told the newspaper.

COVID-19, coronavirus, Dolly Parton, Mark Denison, Naji Abumrad