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UC COVID-19 studies awarded $425K

University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine offices of research awarded 11 pilot grants

The COVID-19 pandemic and its spread is the top issue on everyone’s mind as confirmed cases climb and citizens across the globe adjust to quarantine and social distancing to avoid its spread.

UC researchers are working around the clock to explore new treatments and begin clinical trials to test new therapies for the virus. 

Understanding that time was of the essence in combating this highly infectious disease, UC and its College of Medicine’s Office of Research conducted a rapid review and distribution of $425,000 in novel pilot grants to researchers, focusing on eradicating the disease.

The Special Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research Pilot Grant Program was established to quickly support the development of innovative studies to contribute to knowledge of the virus’ genetic makeup and progression and how it affects various populations. 

“The endowed research projects also focus on impacting treatment or diagnosis, management of the infection and its prevention,” says Dr. Brett Kissela, the Albert Barnes Voorheis chair and professor of the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and senior associate dean for clinical research at the UC College of Medicine.

test tubes in a lab

Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

Some of the endowed project participants include: 

  • Dr. Justin Benoit, Department of Emergency Medicine, “Renin-Angiotension-Aldosterone System Dysfunction and Laboratory Abnormalities in COVID-19”       

  • Jiajie Diao, Department of Cancer Biology, “Single Molecule Study of Coronavirus Helicase”     

  • Dr. Nishant Gupta, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, “Sirolimus Treatment in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19”    

  • Dr. Kristin Hudock, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, “Storming Cytokines in COVID-19: Associations with Respiratory Failure at UCMC”

  • James Lee, University of Cincinnati Libraries, Digital Scholarship Center, and Danny Wu, Department of Biomedical Informatics, “Using Intelligent Text Mining and Summarization Methods to Address COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge”

  • Tom Leemhuis, Hoxworth Blood Center, College of Medicine, “T-cell Therapy for Treatment of SARS-CoV-2”  

  • Yoshi Odaka, UC Blue Ash College, and Rhett Kovall, College of Medicine, Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, “Elucidation of SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 Protein Structure and Effect of Macrolides Rapamycin (sirolimus) and FK506 (tacrolimus) on ORF8 and FKBP7 Interaction”

  • David Plas, Department of Cancer Biology, and William Miller, Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, “Interfering with SARS-CoV-2 Envelope-dependent Viral Entry”

  • Susan Reutman, College of Nursing, “An Improvised Worker Respiratory Protection Evaluation”

  • Sakthivel Sadayappan, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease, “Reversal of SARS-CoV-2-induced Contractile Dysfunction Mediated by Binding to ACE2 Receptor”

  • Dr. Kenneth Sherman, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, “SAR-Cov-2 Virus and the Liver”

Photo of Melanie Cushion

Melanie Cushion, professor in UC’s department of internal medicine and senior associate dean for research. Photo credit/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

Photo of Brett Kissela

Dr. Brett Kissela, the Albert Barnes Voorheis chair and professor of the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and senior associate dean for clinical research at the UC College of Medicine. Photo credit/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

These projects range in focus from establishing a standard method to test homemade masks to evaluating new treatments for hospitalized patients with the coronavirus to finding a new system to screen candidate anti-COVID agents in cell culture. Additionally, researchers will look at new molecular drug targets for the virus, a web-based accumulation of COVID-19 research information and will investigate the effects of the infection on the heart, respiratory system and the liver. 

“We had a one-week deadline and the projects that poured in were incredible,” says Melanie Cushion, professor in UC’s department of internal medicine and senior associate dean for research. “We have such immense talent at this university. This was a highly competitive program, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results and impact of these innovative studies.”

“We are working as one team and have established a COVID-19 biorepository — banking samples from COVID-19 patients for research studies that will go to up to 55 teams prepared to study this virus and ultimately help devise treatments,” adds Kissela, who is also a UC Health physician. “Some of these teams have received funding from the pilot grant challenge and some will be funded by other sources such as the National Institutes of Health or American Heart Association.

“In this time of public health crisis, we are doing what we do best. We are rising to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic not only with the highest level of clinical care but also with groundbreaking research.”

See Cincinnati Business Courier and WLWT-TV, Channel 5 coverage of this funding.

Featured photo of UC research by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand 

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The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission and is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities. UC's graduate students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.