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James T. O’Neal is a health and life scientist principal on MITRE’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 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA).

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As COVID-19 raced around 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 enhance immune system functions and help advance our ability to treat a range of diseases.

Against this backdrop, James marshaled MITRE’s biomedical science, health communications, and data management capabilities to engage the public in discussions on therapeutics. Researchers needed to tell people about the promise of convalescent plasma. More importantly, they had to recruit donors and develop a plasma stockpile for clinical use and research as the virus spread and mutated.

By January of 2021, the program included metropolitan areas reaching more than 140 million Americans. Over 650,000 units of plasma donations have been generated, along with a significant increase in the utilization 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 for hard work, faith, and determination.

“While 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 purpose in my career and help the nation fight COVID-19.”

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O’Neal graduated with a degree in political science, and then worked in logistics, information systems management, and telecommunications management, before joining MITRE.

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