Penn State Investigators are working around the clock in search of solutions to COVID-19 in a quest to save as many lives as possible. Thanks to a recent seed grant and the work of its researchers, thus far $1.2 million has been awarded to researchers in 21 Penn State departments across seven colleges. Senior Vice President of Research Lora Weiss reports how remarkable various Penn State institutes and departments have come together to collaborate and do what ever is possible to make a difference in the global pandemic. As director of the Huck Institutes for Life Sciences, Andrew Read noted, “Time lost means live lost and the clock is ticking.”

As reported in Penn State’s website, a number of research initiatives targeting COVID-19 are ongoing including:

Vaccine Development

A Penn State professor, Nikolay Dokholyan, Professor of Pharmacology, isn’t wasting time doing traditional research, bypassing standard vaccine strategies in favor of accelerated approaches using novel computational methods. Professor Dokholyan hopes to mimic the spike proteins that occur on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 to help expedite potential solutions.

Virus Detection

Another investigator, Paul Cremer, professor of chemistry, is assessing a tool for demonstrating the spread of COVID-19. By developing a real-time sensor that can continuously monitor for SARS-CoV-2 in an enclosed space, such as a conference room, he hopes to be able to use the tool to help identify the source of an infection prior to its spread. Professor Cremer raised the specter of incidents such as the Biogen employee meeting in February where 175 people came together in a room in Boston. Unfortunately, one “super-spreader” infected 70 attendees. What if a new monitor could help stop this kind of event from ever occurring?

Communication Strategies

As TrialSite News has descried in places such as Taiwan, a combination of evidence and data-driven approaches along with transparency and proactive communication can effectively and efficiently help a nation get on top of this horrific pathogen. As in the U.S., communication can be haphazard and fragmented—and the substance of the information can change by the minute—it is imperative that effective communication strategies are executed to avoid misconceptions and garner widespread societal support and public buy-in. Hence, Penn State associate professor of family and community medicine Robert Lennon, is working on the impact of information campaigns on public health and health care workers’ knowledge about what they should or should not be doing to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Public Policy

Research assistant professor of human development and family studies, Taylor Scott, is addressing legislatures’ needs for research that is related to social and behavioral policy responses to COVID-19. Her seed granted study includes the following goals: 1) engage scholars who can respond to congressional needs with timely and scientific technical support; 2) identify scientific knowledge needs among federal legislators and 3) respond to congressional needs through written and oral communications, policy language review and the creation of information artifacts (e.g. fact sheets) for nonacademic audiences.

Lead Research/Investigators

Nikolay Dokholyan, Professor of Pharmacology

Paul Cremer, professor of chemistry

Robert Lennon, associate professor of family and community medicine

Taylor Scott, Research assistant professor of human development and family studies

Source: PennState

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