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Jeffrey Lurie at the Philadelphia Eagles 2018 Super Bowl victory parade Credit: Chase Sutton

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie announced Friday that he is donating $1 million to Penn Medicine to help advance COVID-19 research.

Penn Medicine will use the donation to establish the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund which will focus on testing healthcare workers for immunity, developing a vaccine, and testing other drugs' effectiveness in fighting the virus, Penn Medicine News reported.

“We have reached a critical point in our fight against COVID-19 in which testing for antibodies is absolutely essential both to protect our front-line workers in the short term and to develop treatments and vaccines that will save lives and help defeat the virus,” Lurie told Penn Medicine News.

Penn Medicine will send serology tests to a number of research studies for health care workers and recovered COVID-19 patients, made possible by Lurie's donation, Penn Medicine News reported. The tests give clear evidence whether or not a person has antibodies against the virus.

“In a time of national crisis, this is the kind of extraordinary partnership that can open doors and discover new pathways to address the profound challenges before us,” Penn President Amy Gutmann told Penn Medicine News.

In recent weeks, Penn Medicine has made several steps to join the global effort to combat the COVID-19 crisis. 

On March 27, the Perelman School of Medicine opened the Center of Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens to expand research efforts and support the development of new therapies and vaccines. Next week, Penn Medicine will begin testing patients to study if a malaria and arthritis drug can treat already infected people or help prevent infection altogether.

Lurie’s donation comes as government officials and healthcare workers in Pennsylvania brace for the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fox 29 News reported on April 7 there have been 4,012 confirmed cases in Philadelphia County and 14,559 statewide. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the state's peak in coronavirus cases is projected to be on April 11.

“We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that is affecting all of us in so many ways,” Lurie told Penn Medicine News. “Every passing day brings new stories of heartbreaking tragedy, inspirational courage, and hopeful innovation. We can and will get through this, but only if we work together, care for each other, and focus our attention and resources towards sustainable strategies.”