James T. O’Neal is a Senior Health and Life Scientist on MITER’s Health Innovation Team. During the darkest days of the pandemic, O’Neal’s unwavering commitment to working in the public interest helped save lives and earned him the Outstanding Technical Contribution award at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards. 2022 (BEYA).
As COVID-19 circled the globe and biopharmaceutical researchers worked to develop vaccines, many health experts recognized the potential benefits of convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibody therapies to combat the effects of the virus. Monoclonal antibodies are designed to improve immune system functions and help advance our ability to treat a range of diseases.
In this context, James has harnessed the biomedical science, health communication and data management capabilities of MITER to engage the public in discussions about therapeutics. Researchers needed to tell people about the promise of convalescent plasma. More importantly, they had to recruit donors and develop a stockpile of plasma for clinical and research purposes as the virus spread and mutated.
As of January 2021, the program included metropolitan areas reaching more than 140 million Americans. Over 650,000 units of plasma donations were generated, as well as a significant increase in the use of the federal stockpile of monoclonal antibodies.
As a young man growing up in eastern North Carolina, James said his parents instilled in him a love of hard work, faith and determination.
“Although I sometimes strayed from these values”, he confessed, “by the grace of God, and with the help of many people along the way, I was able to find a purpose for my career and help the nation fight COVID-19.”
O’Neal earned a degree in political science, then worked in logistics, information systems management and telecommunications management, before joining MITRE.