Penn State funds high-impact coronavirus research

March 08, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An effective response to the emergence and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, known in the scientific community as SARS-CoV-2, includes the critical role of the scientific community in assessing key knowledge gaps with research focused on improving prevention, diagnostics, treatment, infection control practices and public health policies. The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences — with support from the Materials Research Institute, the Social Sciences Research Institute, the Institute for Computational and Data Science and the Institutes for Energy and the Environment — has issued a request for proposals for projects that will utilize Penn State’s unique research strengths to contribute to the global coronavirus response.

“Not only must Penn State take actions to help protect the health and wellbeing of our community, we also have a special responsibility as a research university to conduct work that addresses the most important problems facing society,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost of the University. “With expertise spanning multiple disciplines and scales — including one of the largest groups of co-located infectious disease scientists in the world — Penn State is uniquely positioned to play a role in the public health response to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.”

According to Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences — who is spearheading the funding — responding to an outbreak of this complexity requires researchers in the life sciences, social sciences, law, policy, economics, communication science, advanced computing, engineering, chemistry, materials science, and mathematics, among other disciplines, to collaborate and contribute knowledge that advances mitigation and treatment efforts.

Proposals should have clear potential for improving public health, as well as the capacity to rapidly leverage external funding. Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, is chairing the selection process. Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis throughout March with decisions made weekly. The first round of decisions will be made and announced on Tuesday, March 10.

Projects could include, for example:

  • development of epidemiological models or empirical studies to understand transmission and intervention impact
  • decision support around prevention and control measures
  • local screening to obtain tightly resolved and operationally valuable data
  • development of novel engineering control tools, biosensors and environmental sensors
  • development of in vitro or in vivo models
  • development of improved diagnostics
  • the study of human behavior and health messaging with respect to transmission control
  • the study of animal reservoirs
  • economic and business analyses

“Anyone at Penn State with relevant expertise and a potentially impactful idea should apply for funding,” said Read. “We also encourage proposals that seek to establish interdisciplinary teams, and we are very happy to help matchmake where groups are looking for others with expertise they do not have. With this call, we want to encourage Penn State researchers to use their intellectual and technical firepower to help mitigate both the initial impacts of the outbreak and the longer-term management. SARS-CoV-2 is likely here to stay.”

Last Updated March 12, 2020