In the news / Viruses

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Students, faculty and staff are expected to return to campus this August, but with COVID-19 cases still on the rise in Arizona and the highly social nature of college, the University of Arizona called upon a team of BIO5 Institute members to address inevitable future cases

 
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Several research teams in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, including one featuring UArizona immunologist and BIO5 member Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, are working on developing nasal coronavirus vaccines. The hope is that the nasal vaccines will do all that their intramuscular competitors can and more by mounting a multi-pronged attack on the virus from the moment it tries to enter the body.
 
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A respiratory-assist device (RAD) co-created by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, UArizona COM-T Pulmonary/Allergy division chief and BIO5 member, has been given a new use in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The device was originally developed for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, but now Dr. Parthasarathy's team is working to get the invention to front-line workers battling COVID-19.
 
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As Americans learn to live with the coronavirus, many are struggling with decisions about which practices are safe or risky for them. Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona COM-T Infectious Disease Division chief and BIO5 member, and five other public health/infectious diseases specialists spoke with the Washington Post about their own behavior and precautions toward managing their risk of contracting coronavirus.
 
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Researchers are continually faced with the daunting task of securing financial support to conduct their research. Highly competitive grants, limited opportunities, and poor availability of resources make it difficult for investigators to keep their labs afloat, much less thrive. Dr. Felicia Goodrum, professor of immunobiology and member of the BIO5 Institute, has been nominated as the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) award designed to give productive and creative scientists long-term support, without the burden of constantly devoting time and staff resources to applying for multiple new grants to fund their research.
 
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More than half a dozen epidemiologists, virologists, and psychologists, including UArizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health associate professor and BIO5 member Dr. Purnima Madhivanan, discuss methods that struggling governments can implement to prevent further damaging spread of coronavirus.
 
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Several UArizona College of Pharmacy faculty members, including BIO5 members Drs. Yin Chen, Xinxin Ding, Brian Erstad, Jianqin Lu, and Wei Wang, were awarded BIO5 Technology and Research Initiative Fund seed grants to “jump-start” projects to fight COVID-19. The fund enables researchers to positively impact Arizonans’ health and combat the global pandemic.
 
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Will products made with copper keep the coronavirus at bay? Dr. Michael Johnson, UArizona Immunobiology associate professor and BIO5 member, dispels myths about copper’s effectiveness as a sanitizing agent against coronavirus as pandemic fears have created interest in metallic products touting antimicrobial properties.
 
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UArizona football team returns to campus to begin voluntary practices for the Fall 2020 season under the watchful eyes of medical professionals and strength and conditioning coaches. The football team’s return to campus also begins the pilot period of the university’s COVID-19 testing effort, co-led by UArizona COM-T professor and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Hammer.
 
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Dr. Paloma Beamer, a UArizona associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and BIO5 member, discusses the risks of contracting COVID-19 through air travel and the precautions and steps you can take to prevent contracting the virus. Dr. Beamer believes it is important to assess the necessity of the trip before deciding to fly and recommends rescheduling if possible. Dr. Beamer also gives tips for safety and cleanliness for those that cannot avoid air-travel.
 
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A new analysis, led by UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology head and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Worobey, indicates that the first COVID-19 outbreak began around February 13th, weeks later than the previously assumed timeline of the outbreak beginning in mid-January. The study provides reason for optimism: It suggests that if COVID-19 cases can be brought down to very low numbers, it’s possible to use techniques such as contact tracing to keep an outbreak under control.
 
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The UArizona College of Pharmacy's scientists, labs and alumni are partnering with pharmaceutical companies, working in hospital emergency departments, and helping the public get the medication they need as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this effort are BIO5 members Drs. Jun Wang and Chris Hulme, both of which have shifted their research foci toward COVID-19. Dr. Wang is working on developing promising drug candidates that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture, while Dr. Hulme is researching the pharmacological underpinnings of COVID-19.
 
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A UArizona study involving Dr. Meredith Hay, a Department of Physiology professor and BIO5 member, aims to start a comprehensive investigation of the effects of coronavirus on the brain. The UArizona Center for Innovation in Brain Science funded study, will follow subjects over several years to study changes as they age. The center's director and BIO5 member Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton looks forward to continuing to support these critical research endeavors as researchers work to understand the novel virus.
 
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As of April 28, more than 6,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state of Arizona.

 
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The BIO5 Institute solicited COVID-19 research proposals for seed grants supplied by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF).

 
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The University of Arizona will soon begin analyzing blood samples from hundreds of thousands of Arizonans to determine who has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and developed antibodies against it. The first phase of testing will begin April 30 in Pima County and will include 3,000 health care workers and first responders.
 
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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 critical need of local COVID-19 data, a collaboration of researchers from UArizona Health Sciences & The Data Science Institute including BIO5’s Nirav Merchant, launched a 2-way texting system to gather valuable info to track the virus in Arizona. The application will assist with identifying areas where resources are needed.