In the news / Technology Enabled Health

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UArizona officials said that the campus’s wastewater COVID-19 detection technique — developed, in part, by UArizona WEST center director and BIO5 member Dr. Ian Pepper — possibly prevented a sizable outbreak on campus. Wastewater samples from the dorms have been regularly tested for signs of COVID-19 since students returned to campus in August.
 
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Since the University of Arizona opened its doors, more than 9,000 students, faculty and staff had been tested for COVID-19 and everyone on campus was wearing a mask. The school had even begun sampling its wastewater to quickly detect a potential hot spot. But the centerpiece in the school's preemptive battle against COVID-19 was the "Covid Watch" smartphone app, which uses Bluetooth technology to send an alert to someone's phone if they are exposed to the virus.
 
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Innovative minds spanning several disciplines created partnerships to advance research and impact the lives of Arizonans at the second annual BIO5/BIOSA Faculty Industry Networking Event.
 
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In the case of colorectal cancer, the detection of early metastases to the liver is crucial for patient survival. A University of Arizona Health Sciences research team featuring Dr. Ali Bilgin is developing a novel imaging technique to detect the spread of colorectal cancer. The group aims to provide better outcomes for patients through the use of novel MRI methods to diagnose early tumor spread, providing patients and physicians greater treatment options, including non-surgical alternatives.
 
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Harnessing the power of technology, the BIO5 Institute will virtually connect University of Arizona faculty and researchers with representatives from biotech, biomedical, and life science companies at the FINE event on Thursday, August 13, 2020.
 
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A team of engineers and scientists is developing a solar-powered desalination system to recover water from concentrated waste streams with maximum efficiency. The team is conducting research using the Optical Sciences Center solar testbed.
 
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A record number of Tech Launch Arizona startups at UArizona were reported during FY2020. This was made possible through the innovations from 19 different startups by teams of world-class entrepreneurial researchers, including BIO5 members Drs. Minying Cai, David Harris, Victor Hruby, Doug Loy, Marty Pagel, Sairam Parthasarathy, Benjamin Renquist, Marvin Slepian, and Russell Witte.
 
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Dr. Kristen Pogreba-Brown, UArizona epidemiologist, BIO5 member, and lead of the Student Aid For Epidemiological Response (SAFER) program, shared her team's progress on developing contact tracing practices before students return to campus. She also spoke about the steps all people on campus will have to take to ensure the contact tracing program is effective this fall.
 
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Thanks to a U.S. Department of Defense contract for as much as $9.5 million, UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and partners aim to develop a portable device to easily and accurately detect bio-threats, including COVID-19. This effort will be led by Dr. Frederic Zenhausern, director of the Center for Applied Nanobioscience and Medicine and BIO5 faculty member.
 
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Joyce Schroeder and Kristen Pogreba-Brown are lending their unique expertise and collaborative approach to mitigate the risk of returning to campus this fall.
 
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This semester the UArizona opened the new Peter and Nancy Salter Medical Device Design Lab for undergraduate students majoring in biomedical engineering and other engineering fields. Dr. Philipp Gutruf, a UArizona assistant professor of biomedical engineering and BIO5 member, discusses the educational value of giving students access to state of the art equipment that can help them manufacture and design circuit boards or custom enclosures for wearable devices.
 
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BIO5 connects and mobilizes hundreds of world-class researchers to develop creative solutions for complex challenges such as disease, hunger, water and food safety, and other health issues facing Arizona and the world. This interdisciplinary approach from BIO5 researchers, including Drs. Jennifer Barton, Judith Su, and DK Kang, has resulted in disease prevention strategies and promising new therapies, innovative diagnostics and devices, and improved food crops.
 
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To address the shortage of health care supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Drs. Win Burleson and Marvin Slepian have been spending much of his time designing ventilators with solely readily available items. One of Dr.

 
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At least two independent research teams in the United States are developing technology to measure how much COVID-19 is in sewage water to help track how the virus spreads. One of those teams is led by Dr.

 
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Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson have invented a new respiratory-assist device, or RAD, that provides fast, safe relief to those who experience difficulty breathing. Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, professor of medicine and chief of the UArizona Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and Dr. Marvin Slepian, Regents Professor of Medicine and director of the UArizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, created the new device: a small-scale, low-pressure heliox rebreathing system that simultaneously removes carbon dioxide while appropriately adjusting for humidity as it recirculates gasses in a closed system. To battle one of the major complications of COVID-19, inflammation in the respiratory tract and lungs that can lead to life-threatening pneumonia, the fast and safe application of a RAD can make the difference between life and death.
 
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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the world are running short on personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators – masks that, unlike surgical masks, fit tightly around the face and are capable of filtering out 95% of airborne particles. A group of UArizona researchers, including Dr. Doug Loy, a Department of Materials Science and Engineering professor and BIO5 member, is responding to the shortage by designing, 3D printing, and testing masks for health care workers.
 
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UArizona researchers and staff at all levels are working to assemble COVID-19 collection kits. Led by Dr. David T Harris, Arizona Health Sciences Biorepository executive director, UArizona Department of Immunobiology professor, and BIO5 faculty member, research staff had begun producing the kits over the weekend, ultimately assembling more than 1,600 kits. Dr. Harris said that while assembling the collection kits is fairly easy, it's finding the materials for those kits that's the difficult part. Despite already making nearly 2,000 of these collection kits over the weekend, Dr. Harris said staff aim to assemble 10,000 over the next two weeks.
 
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Scientists are developing new ways of collecting and analyzing biomarkers in sweat. UArizona BIO5 faculty members Dr. Erin Ratcliff and Dr. Esther Sternberg from the College of Engineering and the College of Medicine-Tucson, respectively, are leading research that could allow physicians to use patient sweat samples as a less invasive approach to establishing and monitoring health.