MB&B graduate Tara Alpert, PhD, sequences first cases of new SARS-CoV-2 variant in Connecticut

Tara Alpert
January 15, 2021

Dr. Tara Alpert, a former MB&B Ph.D. student, identified the first two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 to be reported in the state of Connecticut. Dr. Alpert, who is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale School of Public Health, appeared on news channels last week to describe the new variant and the approach her team is taking to identify it in patient samples. 

The B.1.1.7 variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom in December 2020. By then it was already becoming the dominant variant in the U.K., prompting concerns that the mutations found in the variant may increase transmission of the virus.  Scientists around the world began searching for the new variant in patient samples. In Connecticut, the Yale School of Public Health teamed up with Yale’s Department of Pathology and the Connecticut Department of Public Health to sequence patient samples in order detect and prevent the spread of the new variant.

On January 7th, 2021, Connecticut was among the first states in the U.S. to report confirmed cases of the new variant. In an interview with WTNH News 8, Dr. Alpert emphasized the importance of sequencing as a powerful tool for fighting the pandemic. Dr. Alpert also explained that the vaccines currently being distributed should remain effective against the B.1.1.7 variant in an interview on Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

Before joining Dr. Nathan Grubaugh’s lab to study the novel coronavirus, Dr. Alpert defended her Ph.D. thesis in the MB&B department in March 2020. She carried out her thesis work under the mentorship of Dr. Karla Neugebauer. Dr. Alpert was awarded the Mary Ellen Jones Prize in 2020 for her dissertation entitled “Coordination Between Pre-mRNA Splicing and Cleavage in Budding Yeast.”

Channel 3 News Video: https://www.wfsb.com/video-2-cases-of-new-covid-19-variant-found-in-ct/video_dcb94a5d-1f10-55f1-b97a-50139aa40216.html

WTNH News 8 Video & Article: https://www.wtnh.com/news/health/coronavirus/gov-lamont-confirms-first-two-cases-of-covid-variant-in-ct/

By Melanie Reschke