AIMBE Fellows' Efforts to Combat COVID-19 Outbreak
AIMBE Fellows and the medical and biological engineering community have been deeply involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are honored to share and recognize their efforts.

FDA Authorizes First Prescription At Home Molecular Test for COVID-19

Erik Engelson | Via Lucira Health | November 18, 2020

On November 18, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first prescription molecular diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can be performed entirely at home. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Lucira Health, Inc. for its single-use, user-friendly COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit that can produce a positive or negative result at home within 30 minutes. Lucira’s test kit is differentiated by its simple ‘swab, stir and detect’ design. Clinical trials showed 100% of patients were successfully able to perform the Lucira test in about two minutes. That is significantly faster than labs which currently take two to seven days to generate similarly accurate test results.

The Lucira™ COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is expected to be available to patients served by Sutter Health in Northern California, and Cleveland Clinic Florida in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, in the near future. By early spring 2021, it is expected to be available nationally through health care providers. “There are currently two types of COVID-19 tests that detect whether a person is infected and potentially infectious,” said Lucira Health CEO Erik Engelson. “Antigen tests detect viral proteins and can provide results quickly. However, they are not diagnostically definitive and are more likely to miss an active coronavirus infection, or positive result, compared to molecular tests. Molecular tests like Lucira’s are 50 to 60 times more sensitive than antigen tests, and considered the ‘gold standard’ for determining if someone is infected… Continue reading.

Researchers find more precise way to detect pneumonia caused by COVID-19

Guang-Hong Chen | Via Wis Business | October 16, 2020

Using cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology, UW‒Madison investigators have developed a far more precise way to identify cases of COVID-19 induced pneumonia.

Using a custom artificial intelligence algorithm called CV19-Net, the UW research team dug into a vast resource database of tens of thousands of COVID-19 chest X-rays to show its method could identify pneumonia caused by COVID-19 at a sensitivity of 88%, according to Guang-Hong Chen, PhD, professor of medical physics and radiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

From the tens of thousands of X-rays available, the team pared down the number of X-ray images to train the artificial intelligence algorithm and then evaluated the performance of the CV19-Net algorithm over 5,900 X-rays from approximately 3,000 patients between Feb. 1 and May 3, 2020… Continue reading.

Skin-care product based on U of T Engineering research donated to health-care workers fighting COVID-19

Milica Radisic | Via University of Toronto | October 13, 2020

A U of T Engineering spinoff company has donated its entire stock of skin-care product to health-care workers fighting the global pandemic.

Several years ago, Professor Milica Radisic (BME, ChemE) and her team developed a peptide-hydrogel biomaterial that prompts skin cells to “crawl” toward one another. The material was initially designed to help close the chronic, non-healing wounds often associated with diabetes, such as bed sores and foot ulcers.

Shortly thereafter, the technology was spun out into Quthero, Inc. a company with offices in Toronto and Pinecrest, Fla. Their first product, Kerra, incorporates the peptides designed by Radisic and her team, and is bioengineered to protect skin from everyday environmental stresses… Continue reading.

Team receives $4 million NIH grant for rapid test of COVID-19, other respiratory infections

Frederick Haselton | Via Vanderbilt University | October 13, 2020

Twice in 2019, Nick Adams and his colleagues applied for federal grant money to develop a rapid, precise, in-office test for respiratory infections. This test would skip the time-consuming and expensive steps of purifying the samples for testing or sending them to a lab. Doctors and their patients would not have to wait days, sometimes weeks for results.

Their proposal got high marks for innovation. But the reviewing panel at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, questioned its significance. Among the comments: Existing tests worked fine for diagnosing seasonal flu and pneumonia. What’s wrong with sending samples to a lab?

What a difference a year makes.

In June 2020 the reviewers were more receptive, and in September the NIAID awarded the team a five-year grant of nearly $4 million to develop a panel of quick tests to diagnose COVID-19 infections, seasonal flu and other respiratory illnesses. Adams, research assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering, had updated the application with information about the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages of testing components and an anticipated surge in demand for more widespread, frequent testing.

“Despite the initial funding rejections, we are fortunate to have continued to work toward developing a better test for respiratory illnesses,” Adams said. “We knew we had a good idea, but I guess we just had to wait for others to recognize it… Continue reading.

Northeastern University studying nanotechnology to help curb COVID-19 spread

Tom Webster | Via WCVB ABC | October 13, 2020

A group of scientists at Northeastern University are making progress using nanotechnology to prevent, diagnose and fight the coronavirus.

Thomas Webster, professor of chemical engineering at Northeastern University, has been working with nanotechnology for decades. Now, he and his team are finding new applications with the coronavirus.

Their goal is to find ways to keep the virus from spreading, improve testing, and create a therapy. “This is why viruses are such a huge problem, because they’re so small and pervasive… Find out more.

Vanderbilt performs world’s first heart, lung transplant of COVID-19 patient

Matthew Bacchetta | Via News Channel 5 Nashville | October 9, 2020

Vanderbilt University Medical Center says it performed the world’s first dual heart-lung transplant of a COVID-19 patient in September.

Vanderbilt says the patient, described as a young man, had cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart tissue that can lead to heart failure – before he contracted COVID-19 in June.

The procedure, which was completed on Sept. 24, was also Vanderbilt’s first heart-lung transplant since 2006. Ashish Shah, MD, professor and chair of Cardiac Surgery, performed the complex surgery, along with Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery… Continue reading.

Vanderbilt researchers develop publicly available COVID-19 animal susceptibility prediction tool; suggests increased risk to horses

John Wikswo | Via Vanderbilt University | October 6, 2020

A Vanderbilt team of experts in virology, genetics, structural biology, chemistry, physiology, medicine, immunology and pharmacology have together developed technology to understand and predict animal susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the strain of coronavirus causing COVID-19. providing evidence that horses and camels may be at increased risk of the virus. The group has also released a publicly available tool to enable people to understand the likelihood of other animals’ susceptibility.

The article, “Predicting susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection based on structural differences in ACE2 across species,” was published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal on Oct. 5.

The investigators applied a combination of sophisticated genetic sequence alignment and structural analysis of ACE2, the receptor protein for SARS-CoV-2, to a variety of known susceptible and non-susceptible species. Through the analysis they identified five particular amino acid sites within the protein that distinguish virus susceptibility or resistance, and using these sites developed an algorithm to predict susceptibility of unknown species. The algorithm has been made public on a website where people can upload the aligned ACE2 sequence of animals with unknown susceptibility to generate a COVID-19 susceptibility score… Continue reading.

Wyss Institute’s nasal swab and toehold switch technologies licensed to facilitate SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic efforts

Donald Ingber | Via Harvard University | October 5, 2020

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that its nasopharyngeal swab and toehold switch technologies have been licensed to Alabama-based Agile Biodetection, which will use them to develop solutions for unmet diagnostic needs in the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in environmental or clinical settings. The licensing agreement was coordinated by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) in accordance with the University’s commitment to the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework.

The Wyss Institute’s nasopharyngeal (nasal) swabs were developed in a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary group effort led by Wyss Institute Senior Staff Engineer Richard Novak, Ph.D., and the Wyss’ Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., as part of the Institute’s collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Motivated by the serious shortage of swab devices for the collection of nasopharyngeal samples early in the pandemic, the researchers created a simple and effective device with advantages over other designs. The Wyss swab device is fully injection-molded from a single material, and as such, can be mass manufactured in a one-step process that is faster, less expensive, and routinely used by a broad range of experienced medical device manufacturers worldwide. Conventional nasal swabs that are commonly used in infectious disease diagnostic medicine were designed 50 years ago, and are manufactured in two parts from different materials that then need to be assembled, sterilized and packaged in a multi-step process, which requires considerable time and expense. In successful tests performed by academic collaborators and teaching hospitals, the unique nasal swab design was demonstrated to effectively collect SARS-CoV-2 genetic RNA material from the nostrils of patients and to be more comfortable than existing commercial products… Continue reading.

COVID test site differences, a fourth option in the works

Rebecca Richards-Kortum | Via Rice University | September 24, 2020

Rice’s Crisis Management Team plans to add a fourth and more rapid COVID-19 testing option on the Rice campus. Currently there are three sites that provide daily testing for asymptomatic students, staff and faculty who spend time on campus.

All three of these current sites (Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory, East Gym in the Tudor Fieldhouse and The Roost at Reckling Park) offer polymerase chain reaction testing. Bioengineering professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum said that her lab is working with the MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop a nucleic acid test for the fourth testing option… Continue reading.

Introducing COVID19questions.org

Lucila Ohno-Machado | Via UC San Diego Health | September 17, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is an urgent need to determine who is at greatest risk for severe disease, better understand how the disease and treatments evolve, and predict the need for resources. But to get there, researchers and clinicians need more data about what patients have experienced so far, and what factors are associated with different patient outcomes.

To provide this information, a new research consortium invites clinicians, researchers, patients and the general public to submit questions that could be answered by COVID-19 patient record data from more than 200 participating hospitals. Questions are submitted and answers are provided via a new web portal: COVID19questions.org.

The consortium, called Reliable Response Data Discovery (R2D2), is led by Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at UC San Diego Health, and made possible by seed funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. R2D2 comprises 12 health systems (202 hospitals) to date: UC San Diego Health, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, San Mateo Medical Center, UC Davis Health, UC Irvine, UCLA, UCSF, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Southern California, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Memorial Hermann Health System, and the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System… Continue reading.

New Insights into How COVID-19 Causes Heart Damage

Todd McDevitt | Via Gladstone Institutes | August 25, 2020

COVID-19 was initially identified as a respiratory disease, but scientists now appreciate that it also affects several other organs in the body, including the heart. Heart damage is a major determinant of COVID-19 related deaths, and even patients who experience only mild COVID-19 symptoms exhibit signs of cardiac dysfunction several months after recovery.

A new study by scientists at Gladstone Institutes helps explain how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, inflicts damage on heart cells. The team’s findings, shared publicly on bioRxiv, show the virus’s unexpected effects on the structure of heart cells in the lab, as well as in heart tissue from COVID-19 patients.

The team, led by Gladstone Senior Investigators Todd C. McDevitt, PhD, and Bruce R. Conklin, MD, was uniquely positioned to tackle this work, due to their experience in deriving various types of cardiac cells in the lab from induced pluripotent stem cells… Continue reading.

Research Examines Links Between ‘Long COVID’ and ME/CFS

Ronald Tompkins | Via Medscape | August 24, 2020

The persistence of long-term symptoms in some individuals with COVID-19 illness has opened up a new line of research into the mechanisms underlying myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome and other chronic post-viral illnesses.

Some patients who had COVID-19 continue to have symptoms weeks to months later, even after they no longer test positive for the virus. In two recent reports — one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July and another published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report this month — chronic fatigue was listed as the top symptom among individuals still feeling unwell beyond 2 weeks after COVID-19 onset… Continue reading.

UChicago awarded $20 million to host COVID-19 medical imaging center

Maryellen Giger | Via University of Chicago | August 7, 2020

Two-year federal contract will support open-source database, enable AI-driven research

A new center hosted at the University of Chicago—co-led by the largest medical imaging professional organizations in the country—will help tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by curating a massive database of medical images to help better understand and treat the disease.

Led by Prof. Maryellen Giger of UChicago Medicine, the Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center (MIDRC) will create an open-source database with medical images from thousands of COVID-19 patients. The center will be funded by a two-year, $20 million contract from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)… Continue reading.

New Vaccine Platform – With No Needles – Has Potential to Be More Effective With Fewer Side Effects

Joel Collier | Via SciTech Daily | August 7, 2020

Study shows that peptide nanofibers induce immune response in lungs and lymph nodes without requiring adjuvants for efficacy, indicating promise for new vaccine development.

An image of self-assembled peptide nanofibers, which are currently under investigation for engineered vaccines. Credit: Collier Lab

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is shining a bright spotlight on vaccine development. As numerous vaccines race through clinical trials, physicians and researchers continue to work on developing new vaccine technologies to generate the most effective vaccines with the fewest side effects.

A new proof-of-concept study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Duke University demonstrates the potential for one such platform, using self-assembling peptide nanofibers tagged with antigens to prime the immune system against a potential invasion.

Their research, published in Science Advances on August 7, 2020, showed that these nanofibers can induce an immune response and activate T cells without the use of additional adjuvants, which can induce inflammation and are associated with common vaccine side effects, like soreness at the injection site or low-grade fever… Continue reading.

Rapid antibody development yields possible treatment for yellow fever

Ram Sasisekharan | Via MIT | July 29, 2020

Yellow fever, a hemorrhagic disease that is common in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, infects about 200,000 people per year and causes an estimated 30,000 deaths. While there is a vaccine for yellow fever, it can’t be given to some people because of the risk of side effects, and there are no approved treatments for the disease.

An international team of researchers, led by MIT Professor Ram Sasisekharan, has now developed a potential treatment for yellow fever. Their drug, an engineered monoclonal antibody that targets the virus, has shown success in early-stage clinical trials in Singapore.

This class of antibodies holds promise for treating a variety of infectious diseases, but it usually takes several years to develop and test them. The MIT-led researchers demonstrated that they could design, produce, and begin clinical trials of their antibody drug within seven months… Continue reading.

UArizona Aims to Provide Rapid Tests for Exposure to Biothreats, Including COVID-19

Frederic Zenhausern | Via University of Arizona | July 27, 2020

Thanks to a U.S. Department of Defense contract for as much as $9.5 million, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and partners aim to develop a portable device to easily and accurately detects biological threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

To better protect those serving on the front lines of battlefields or dealing with an event like the COVID-19 health crisis or potential future pandemics, scientists at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix are leading an effort to develop a device that could easily, quickly and accurately detect pathogens and biological threats.

The college’s Center for Applied Nanobioscience and Medicine is leading the effort, under an Other Transaction Agreement with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense. The contract, to provide about 3,000 devices, has a $9.5 million ceiling for three years.

Frederic Zenhausern, the center’s director and interim co-chair of the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, and his team members, including associate professor Jian Gu, are creating the device in collaboration with scientists from the University of Nevada, Arizona State University, Duke University and Whitespace Enterprises, an Arizona-based startup founded by Zenhausern. The group is responsible for mass production of the technology… Continue reading.

In Cell Studies, Seaweed Extract Outperforms Remdesivir in Blocking COVID-19 Virus

Jonathan Dordick | Via News Wise | July 24, 2020

Heparin, a common anitcoagulent, could also form basis of a viral trap for SARS-CoV-2

In a test of antiviral effectiveness against the virus that causes COVID-19, an extract from edible seaweeds substantially outperformed remdesivir, the current standard antiviral used to combat the disease. Heparin, a common blood thinner, and a heparin variant stripped of its anticoagulant properties, performed on par with remdesivir in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian cells.

Published online today in Cell Discovery, the research is the latest example of a decoy strategy researchers from the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute are developing against viruses like the novel coronavirus that spawned the current global health crisis… Continue reading.

AIMBE Fellows’ Rapid and Ongoing Global Clinical Engineering Response to COVID-19

Tom Judd | Via AIMBE | July 23, 2020

With Yadin David, and Elliot Sloane, IFMBE Clinical Engineering Division (CED)

Situation

Three AIMBE Fellows created and lead an extensive global COVID-19 (C19) information and training program. The global Coronavirus pandemic (C19) is a crisis that demands agile worldwide response, not only by countries and their health systems, but also by most individuals on the planet. This has been a time of incredible suffering, of new challenges, and also unprecedented opportunity for the clinical engineering (CE)/health technology (HT) global community to come together and share experiences – as well as learned and improvised best practices – for medical device management and related tools used to address the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of C19. CED provides this information at no charge to its global network of over 15,000 CE/HT colleagues.

Background

In response to this crisis and the World Health Organization (WHO’s) request in March 2020, three AIMBE Fellows launched a program of free global webinars and information tools sharing clinical engineering (CE) learnings related to the COVID19 pandemic… Continue reading.

This COVID-19 super antibody test could provide new insights into immunity

David Walt | Via Fast Company | July 21, 2020

COVID-19 antibody tests have been the subject of scrutiny since their arrival, but they still represent an important tool in understanding population health. Molecular tests have become the top method of identifying cases of COVID-19. One scientist thinks we should be looking at using a combination of antibody tests, antigen tests, and molecular RNA tests to better understand who has COVID-19 and whether or not they’re actively recovering.

Dr. David Walt is one of the cofounders of genetic sequencing technology giant Illumina and Quanterix, a company that makes technology for detecting biomarkers. He is also co-director of the MGB Center for COVID Innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. When COVID-19 struck, he had to close his lab at Harvard University due to the pandemic. He petitioned to reopen, so he and a team could work on a super antibody test that would enable him to better understand immune response in COVID-19 patients. The request was approved… Continue reading.

Paige Receives FDA Clearance for the FullFocus Viewer for Digital Pathology

Leo Grady | Via Business Wire | July 21, 2020

Paige, a global leader in computational pathology, today announced it received Federal Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance for the FullFocus™, a digital pathology image viewer for the purpose of primary diagnosis. This 510(k) clearance from the FDA allows in vitro diagnostic (IVD) use of FullFocus with FDA-authorized Philips Ultra Fast Scanner and paves the way for IVD use of FullFocus with additional IVD Whole Slide Imaging (WSI) scanners in the future.

Lack of interoperability, intensive capital requirements and burdensome, on-premise storage have long been a challenge in the adoption of digital pathology. The foundation for the FullFocus viewer was initially created and validated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) to allow researchers and pathologists to intuitively view and navigate digital images of surgical pathology slides acquired on all major commercial brands of WSI scanners. After refinement based on 18 months of daily use for retrospective slide review by dozens of practicing pathologists at MSK, the viewer was further enhanced by Paige to meet the performance requirements for IVD use, with accurate color reproducibility, optimized viewing speeds and adherence to a certified quality management system. Committed to providing a flexible solution for hospitals, Paige is working to expand upon the clearance to incorporate use with additional WSI scanners and monitor displays in the near future… Continue reading.

COVID-19 vaccine development and a potential nanomaterial path forward

Nicole Steinmetz | Via Nature Nanotechnology | July 15, 2020

Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people with no clear signs of abatement owing to the high prevalence, long incubation period and lack of established treatments or vaccines. Vaccines are the most promising solution to mitigate new viral strains. The genome sequence and protein structure of the 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV or SARS-CoV-2) were made available in record time, allowing the development of inactivated or attenuated viral vaccines along with subunit vaccines for prophylaxis and treatment. Nanotechnology benefits modern vaccine design since nanomaterials are ideal for antigen delivery, as adjuvants, and as mimics of viral structures. In fact, the first vaccine candidate launched into clinical trials is an mRNA vaccine delivered via lipid nanoparticles. To eradicate pandemics, present and future, a successful vaccine platform must enable rapid discovery, scalable manufacturing and global distribution. Here, we review current approaches to COVID-19 vaccine development and highlight the role of nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing… Continue reading.

David Edwards develops a $50 nasal spray to thwart the spread of COVID-19

David Edwards | Via Fast Company | July 8, 2020

Developed by Harvard professor David Edwards—who previously created inhalable chocolate and cocktails—the spray promises to stop the spread of aerosols by as much as 99%.

You should practice social distancing and wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But even masks aren’t perfect. A high-end N95 mask can filter an estimated 99.8% of the virus from the air, while many cotton masks filter just 50% or less. Given that researchers now know the virus is airborne, you may wonder: Is there anything else you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

According to David Edwards, a Harvard professor and entrepreneur, there is. And it’s not much more complicated than sniffing a specialized saline solution. “It’s cleaning my bioaerosol footprint, if you will,” he says.

With his company Sensory Cloud, Edwards has developed a $50 product that has two components: the Nimbus and FEND. The Nimbus is an aerosol squirter, capable of turning liquid into a cloud of vapor that you puff in front of your nose to inhale from the air. FEND is a solution that goes inside the squirter, composed of a mix of salts similar to seawater… Continue reading.

How Credible are the COVID-19 Models? Center Aims to Find Out

Herbert Sauro | Via University of Washington | July 6, 2020

The multi-institution Center for Reproducible Biomedical Modeling, led by UW Bioengineering Professor Herbert Sauro, is partnering with top U.S. government agencies to determine how credible several commonly used COVID-19 models are.

Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, to aid in decision making, public health officials and policy makers have looked to epidemiological models that estimate how many people will likely get sick, need hospitalization and die from the new virus.

“Our role is to come up with a system that can be used to rank COVID-19 models in terms of reproducibility and credibility… Continue reading.

Encouraging results from functional MRI in an unresponsive patient with COVID-19

Bruce Rosen | Via Medical Xpress | July 6, 2020

Many patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remain unresponsive after surviving critical illness. Investigators led by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) now describe a patient with severe COVID-19 who, despite prolonged unresponsiveness and structural brain abnormalities, demonstrated functionally intact brain connections and weeks later he recovered the ability to follow commands. The case, which is published in the Annals of Neurology, suggests that unresponsive patients with COVID-19 may have a better chance of recovery than expected.

In addition to performing standard brain imaging tests, the team took images of the patient’s brain with a technique called resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI), which evaluates the connectivity of brain networks by measuring spontaneous oscillations of brain activity. The patient was a 47-year-old man who developed progressive respiratory failure, and despite intensive treatment, he fluctuated between coma and a minimally conscious state for several weeks… Continue reading.

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin’s COVID-19 Mask Solution Coming to Market

Cato Laurencin | Via University of Connecticut | July 2, 2020

Within six weeks of announcing a successful method to fabricate custom-fit mask frames to optimize protection from the spread of COVID-19, UConn has a licensing deal with a Connecticut manufacturer to produce them.

Connecticut Biotech, a startup company headquartered in South Windsor, aims to start marketing, manufacturing, and distributing 3D-printed mask frames under the brand Secure Fit this month.

“This is an important technology that can help a lot of people by providing a specific way to make regular surgical masks more protective,” says Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, CEO of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. “It’s wonderful to see technology that started here in the state of Connecticut being developed by a Connecticut company… Continue reading.

DNA Origami Approach for HIV Vaccine Development Could be Used Against SARS-CoV-2

Darrell Irvine | Via Clinical Omics | June 30, 2020

By using a technique known as DNA origami to fold DNA into a virus-like structure, MIT researchers have designed HIV-like particles coated with HIV antigens in precise patterns, which may eventually be used as an HIV vaccine. In vitro studies showed that the DNA origami particles, which mimic the size and shape of viruses, provoked a strong immune response from human immune cells. The researchers anticipate that the same approach could be used to design DNA origami vaccines for a wide variety of viral diseases, and they are now working on adapting the technology to develop a potential vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.

“The rough design rules that are starting to come out of this work should be generically applicable across disease antigens and diseases,” said Darrell Irvine, PhD, who is the Underwood-Prescott professor with appointments in the departments of biological engineering and materials science and engineering; an associate director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research; and a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard. “Our platform technology allows you to easily swap out different subunit antigens and peptides from different types of viruses to test whether they may potentially be functional as vaccines,” added Mark Bathe, PhD, an MIT professor of biological engineering and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard… Continue reading.

Researchers bioengineer first-line defense against COVID-19

Mark Humayun | Via Medical Xpress | June 30, 2020

Researchers at the USC Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, the USC Institute for Technology and Medical Systems and the USC School of Pharmacy are developing an antimicrobial fluid to bolster the body’s first-line defenses against COVID-19.

The biocompatible coating is intended to block the virus from entering the body through membranes in the nose, eyes, and mouth. If successful, the invention could change the way medicine prevents certain infectious diseases.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the infectious agent that causes COVID-19, latches onto structures on the surface of our cells in order to invade. One of these membrane structures, known as a lipid raft, contains cholesterols and fats and acts as the subcellular equivalent of a dock at a seaport. Viral particles traversing our respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts hook onto lipid rafts, then enter our cells and use our cellular machinery to replicate… Continue reading.

Can “Nanosponges” Help Treat Patients With Coronavirus?

Liangfang Zhang | Via Forbes | June 17, 2020

With news yesterday out of the UK that the inexpensive and widely available steroid dexamethasone significantly reduced deaths in coronavirus patients who are intubated and those requiring oxygen, following published evidence last month that the antiviral Remdesivir shortened time to recovery, the search for a breakthrough drug or approach that improves survival before approval of a viable vaccine remains illusive.

Add to this the potential for the virus to mutate—already with multiple strains— the search for a new approach would be ideal.

Now, researchers at UC San Diego have pioneered a novel pathway for treating infections using “nanosponges”—a technology that may hold promise for treating patients with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19… Continue reading.

Repurposing approved drugs for COVID-19 at an accelerated pace

Donald Ingber | Via Harvard University | June 16, 2020

The United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has signed an Agreement worth up to $16 million over the next year with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University to identify and test FDA-approved drugs that could be repurposed to prevent or treat COVID-19. This highly collaborative effort leverages the Institute’s computational drug discovery pipelines and human Organ Chip technologies, and has already found multiple approved compounds that show promise against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

The team, led by Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., is continuing to evaluate many more drugs, and lead compounds are being tested in high-throughput cell-based assays with CoV-2 virus in the lab of Matthew Frieman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The most promising drugs are being transferred to the lab of Benjamin tenOever, Ph.D. at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai for testing in COVID-19 animal models. Human Organ Chip technology is also being set up in the Frieman and tenOever labs with equipment supplied by Wyss spinout Emulate, Inc., so that they can carry out experiments analyzing the human response to COVID-19 infection in vitro… Continue reading.

NSF RAPID grant supports COVID-19 ‘computational pipeline’

Lydia Kavraki | Via Rice University | June 16, 2020

Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science at Rice, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research grant to implement a computational pipeline to help identify fragments of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins that could be used as targets for vaccine development.

“Efforts are already underway to produce new drug inhibitors, repurpose existing drugs and devise combination treatments for COVID-19,” said Kavraki, who is also a professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering… Continue reading.

Paul Yager developing rapid COVID-19 tests for the home and clinic

Paul Yager | Via University of Washington | June 11, 2020

A working, early prototype of the Yager lab’s screening device, which would allow users to test for COVID-19 at home.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul Yager, professor of bioengineering, knew a rapid and accurate test would be needed to screen patients for the new coronavirus. He immediately set to work adapting his point-of-care testing research to developing an at-home test for the new virus.

Since 2011, his lab has been developing compact, low-cost screening tests that can detect illnesses such as flu, dengue fever and HIV, and can be used by anyone, anywhere. The Yager lab’s technology uses nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) coupled with microfluidic devices to detect fragments of a pathogen’s genetic material in under 20 minutes. It offers a simpler and faster alternative to traditional gene-based testing, which requires a complicated lab process that takes a few hours to get reliable results.

Now, the Yager lab is applying its technology, called UbiNAAT, to COVID-19 tests, which could be used by untrained people in their homes as well as in health care facilities and low-resource settings around the world. The tests could also be used for screening at airports, workplaces, theaters and sporting events to identify carriers of the virus and limit its spread… Continue reading.

How rod-shaped particles might distract an out-of-control COVID immune response

Lola Eniola-Adefeso | Via University of Michigan | June 10, 2020

A long-ignored white blood cell may be central to the immune system overreaction that is the most common cause of death for COVID-19 patients—and University of Michigan researchers found that rod-shaped particles can take them out of circulation.

The No. 1 cause of death for COVID-19 patients echoes the way the 1918 influenza pandemic killed: their lungs fill with fluid and they essentially drown. This is called acute respiratory distress syndrome. But a new way of drawing immune cells out of the lungs might be able to prevent this outcome. This research is among the essential projects at U-M that have continued through the pandemic uninterrupted… Continue reading.

DoD Funds Clinical Trial of Seraph Blood Filter to Treat COVID-19

Robert Ward | Via MD+DI Online | June 9, 2020

The Department of Defense is funding a clinical trial of a COVID-19 treatment using ExThera Medical’s Seraph 100 Blood filter.

The device was selected to be in the multi-center randomized clinical trial because it showed encouraging preliminary results in critically ill COVID-19 patients at a military hospital in the U.S. and 14 other hospitals in Europe. Investigators at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda will run the trial of the Martinez, CA-based company’s device. Initial reports indicate Seraph 100 stabilizes blood pressure and inflammatory biomarkers that correlate with poor patient outcome: IL-6, Ferritin, D-dimers, LDH, and Nt-proBNP, all decreased during Seraph 100 treatments of COVID-19 patients.

In a release about DoD’s funding, it was stated that it appears as if the Seraph 100 helps improve patient outcomes by providing additional time for supportive care while reducing the sources of inflammation and possibly preventing further damage by reducing SARS-CoV-2 virus/RNA in the bloodstream… Continue reading.

Study Finds Screened Health Care Workers Unlikely to Be Covid-19 Carriers

Terence Sanger | Via MedicalResearch.com | June 4, 2020

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Terence Sanger MD
Pediatric Neurology
Vice president of
Research and Chief Scientific Officer
CHOC Children’s
UC Irvine School of Medicine

 

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: During the current pandemic, publicly available data on the prevalence of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers has been limited. This study sought to determine the COVID-19 viral prevalence in a population of healthcare workers within a pediatric emergency department in Orange County, Calif., during a time interval that overlapped with the state’s projected peak coronavirus-related use of hospital resources.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We found that the burden of COVID-19 disease, as measured by RT-PCR, was 0.69% (1/145) in our cohort of asymptomatic healthcare workers in a pediatric emergency department. Healthcare workers in a community with a low prevalence of COVID-19 who undergo daily symptom surveys and temperature screens are not likely to be carriers of Sars-CoV-2. These findings could help assuage public fear of contracting COVID-19 from emergency department providers… Continue reading.

Wearable COVID-19 Sensor Receives NSF RAPID Grant

John Rogers | Via Northwesternn University | June 3, 2020

Device monitors early signs, disease progression and response to treatment

The skin mounted sensor is soft, flexible and comfortable to wear.

A research team led by Northwestern Engineering bioelectronics pioneer John A. Rogers has received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue developing a novel wearable device and set of algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and monitor progression of COVID-19.

In partnership with researchers at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Rogers launched the device in April. The NSF funding will help Rogers and his team incorporate more advanced data analytics into the device and add a sensor to measure oxygen levels in the blood.

This project is among the latest at Northwestern to receive a rapid response research (RAPID) grant from the NSF, which has called for immediate proposals that have potential to address the spread of COVID-19.

“Our device addresses a key issue in the COVID-19 pandemic: the limited capacity of healthcare systems,” Rogers said. “By continuously monitoring high-risk individuals, such as healthcare workers and the elderly, we can minimize the number of unnecessary hospital visits and provide an early warning to enable preventive measures… Continue reading.

USF COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Effort Delivers Funding in Second Round of Pandemic Projects

Paul Sanberg | Via University of South Florida | May 29, 2020

The University of South Florida’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants program is investing in 14 faculty research projects that would advance new medical interventions to detect and stop infections, develop innovations in personal protective equipment, and address fear and confusion in communities particularly vulnerable to the virus.

A total of $344,855 will support this new round of research projects — the second such investment made by the university since April. USF is partnering with the Florida High Tech Corridor Council which is contributing $100,000 in support of five of the proposals which have the potential for technology commercialization.

“The shock and devastation of the pandemic has inspired USF researchers to dig deep in thinking of new ways to keep us safer and healthier in the future,” said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Knowledge Enterprise. “They are applying the best of their expertise, ability and creativity to this cause, while working in partnership with private companies and public agencies to bring these projects to fruition… Continue reading.

Tampa company, Kaligia Biosciences, developing portable, rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 screening devices

Stephen Liggett | Via Tampa Dispatch | May 27, 2020

The reopening of the world economy is largely reliant on easy and accessible COVID-19 screening. Kaligia Biosciences, a medical device company, is working with major Florida medical institutions to develop a portable, saliva-based device that can produce results in less than three minutes.

Kaligia Biosciences is starting clinical trials of the Rapid Biofluid Analyzer 2 (RBA-2) device this week, using saliva samples of COVID-19 from Bay-area hospitals and beyond.

The method uses a proven Kaligia Biosciences device that analyses multiple blood components. Kaligia Biosciences is collaborating with AdventHealth, the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy (USF) the USF College of Medicine and Tampa General Hospital (TGH) to adapt the device for COVID-19 screening… Continue reading.

Decreasing the Time from Antibody Idea to IND Approval

Ram Sasisekharan | Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | May 26, 2020

In 2015, Ram Sasisekharan, PhD, the Alfred H. Caspary professor of biological engineering and health sciences & technology at MIT, founded Tychan. The company concentrates on one key goal: decreasing the time from antibody idea to investigational new drug (IND) approval. Now, the company claims it can cut the average time in half and more.

“With traditional technology, it usually takes about 18 months to get an antibody into human trials, from discovery to development,” Sasisekharan said. “For the Zika and Yellow Fever viruses, we developed new antibodies that went into human trials in less than nine months.” This new speed arises from a combination of informatics and bioprocessing… Continue reading.

Prophylactic Drug Delivery System for COVID-19

Heather Sheardown | Via McMaster University | May 22, 2020

The Heather Sheardown lab (McMaster University, Canada) is home to an interdisciplinary team of scientists and trainees with expertise in ophthalmology, polymer and biomaterial engineering, chemistry, pharmaceutical formulation and drug delivery, animal/ex-vivo/in-vitro models of disease and drug delivery, early stage material design and synthesis, and synthetic method scalability optimization.

As the availability of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is still far off, there is an immediate global need for prophylactic prevention strategies, particularly for vulnerable populations including seniors and frontline workers. The Sheardown lab has developed a mucoadhesive polymeric micelle that allows for the encapsulation of a range of therapeutics, providing local, controlled delivery to mucosal surfaces. This technology overcomes traditional solubility concerns, allowing formulations at higher drug concentrations. Its mucosal binding significantly reduces dosing frequency, increases local bioavailability and improves clinical efficacy. Developed and validated for safety and efficacy in the eye, this system is now being repurposed for the mucosa of the respiratory tract, formulated as a nasal spray or inhaled aerosol, incorporating two treatments that are currently under study internationally: hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and remdisivir… Continue reading.

Go behind the virus on its entry way with targeted pharmacological therapy: the inhalation route of anti SARS-Cov2 active substances.

Ruggero Bettini | Via AIMBE Public Documents | May 21, 2020

BACKGROUND

SARS-Cov2 is the last appeared coronavirus that developed a pandemic infection with huge number of fatal cases. No vaccines are yet available that protect from this infection. However, a number of therapeutic tactics against COVID-19 have been empirically started.

According to Mehra et al., 2020, in COVID-19 illness, a structured approach to clinical is imperative (1). Such approach distinguish the phase in which the viral pathogenicity is dominant, from the phase where the host inflammatory response overtakes the pathology. Therefore, after five months of epidemy, 3-stage’s progression of illness, corresponding to increasing severity with distinct clinical signs, therapy responses and clinical outcomes, has been assessed. These stages constitute the reference for investigation and proposition of effective targeted therapies (1).

Stage I is the phase where the early infection causes to most people mild or asymptomatic disease. Treatment at this level with drug having antiviral activity could prevent the progression to severe disease. Stage II (moderate) corresponds to the pulmonary involvement without (IIa) and with (IIb) hypoxia. In this stage the pulmonary disease is established with viral lung multiplication and localized inflammation. The patients develop a viral pneumonia, with cough, fever and possibly hypoxia. Now, not only antiviral drugs are required but, in particular, the inflammation has to be considered and treated. Stage III is the phase in which an extra-pulmonary systemic hyperinflammation syndrome manifests. Likely, a minority of Covid-19 patients transit to this stage where the therapy is essentially against the so called “inflammation storm… Continue reading.

Go behind the virus on its entry way with targeted pharmacological therapy: the inhalation route of anti SARS-Cov2 active substances.

Paolo Colombo | Via AIMBE Public Documents | May 21, 2020

BACKGROUND

SARS-Cov2 is the last appeared coronavirus that developed a pandemic infection with huge number of fatal cases. No vaccines are yet available that protect from this infection. However, a number of therapeutic tactics against COVID-19 have been empirically started.

According to Mehra et al., 2020, in COVID-19 illness, a structured approach to clinical is imperative (1). Such approach distinguish the phase in which the viral pathogenicity is dominant, from the phase where the host inflammatory response overtakes the pathology. Therefore, after five months of epidemy, 3-stage’s progression of illness, corresponding to increasing severity with distinct clinical signs, therapy responses and clinical outcomes, has been assessed. These stages constitute the reference for investigation and proposition of effective targeted therapies (1).

Stage I is the phase where the early infection causes to most people mild or asymptomatic disease. Treatment at this level with drug having antiviral activity could prevent the progression to severe disease. Stage II (moderate) corresponds to the pulmonary involvement without (IIa) and with (IIb) hypoxia. In this stage the pulmonary disease is established with viral lung multiplication and localized inflammation. The patients develop a viral pneumonia, with cough, fever and possibly hypoxia. Now, not only antiviral drugs are required but, in particular, the inflammation has to be considered and treated. Stage III is the phase in which an extra-pulmonary systemic hyperinflammation syndrome manifests. Likely, a minority of Covid-19 patients transit to this stage where the therapy is essentially against the so called “inflammation storm… Continue reading.

UC Davis Engineering Projects Fight COVID-19

Cristina Davis | Via UC Davis | May 20, 2020

SARS-COV-2, also known as COVID-19, uses its spike proteins to bind with cells. Using antibodies or an enzyme like ACE2-FC to bind with the spike proteins is key to preventing further infection. Graphic courtesy of Roland Faller.

With new seed grants from the UC Davis Office of Research’s COVID-19 Research Accelerator Funding Track (CRAFT), three teams of UC Davis engineers are applying their expertise toward the pandemic response to help people become safer, healthier and better-tested.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) professor and chair Cristina Davis and chemical engineering (CHE) faculty Priya Shah, Karen McDonald and Roland Faller received $25,000 project awards for research that rapidly generates new insights about COVID-19, while biological and agricultural engineering (BAE) professor Gang Sun received a $5,000 small award to apply current research to the pandemic response. These proposals were chosen out from more than 100 applications and were awarded with the expectation that these projects will lead to larger collaborations.

Using Breath to Predict COVID-19 Cases

MAE professor Cristina Davis and her team are using portable devices that capture people’s breath to look for chemical and biological markers, known as biomarkers, to identify and predict the severity of COVID-19 infections.

Davis’ lab produces portable chemical sensing devices that record chemicals from the air or a person’s breath using mass spectroscopy. As part of an ongoing project with professor Nick Kenyon and associate professor Michael Schivo at the UC Davis Medical Center, the team had been conducting a clinical study with these devices to try to find early, asymptomatic biomarkers for the flu. When the pandemic began, the shift to COVID-19 was an obvious one… Continue reading.

Researchers Receives NIH Funds for Adjuvant Research to Boost Coronavirus Vaccines

Krishnendu Roy | Via Georgia Tech | May 20, 2020

Researchers have received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to screen and evaluate certain molecules known as adjuvants that may improve the ability of coronavirus vaccines to stimulate the immune system and generate appropriate responses necessary to protect the general population against the virus.

“The adjuvants that we are studying, known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), are molecules often found in viruses and bacteria, and can efficiently stimulate our immune system,” explained Krishnendu Roy, a professor and Robert A. Milton Chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Most viruses have several of these molecules in them, and we are trying to mimic that multi-adjuvant structure… Continue reading.

Johns Hopkins researchers to use machine learning to predict heart damage in COVID-19 victims

Natalia Trayanova | Via Johns Hopkins University | May 18, 2020

Johns Hopkins researchers recently received a $195,000 Rapid Response Research grant from the National Science Foundation to, using machine learning, identify which COVID-19 patients are at risk of adverse cardiac events such as heart failure, sustained abnormal heartbeats, heart attacks, cardiogenic shock and death.

Increasing evidence of COVID-19’s negative impacts on the cardiovascular system highlights a great need for identifying COVID-19 patients at risk for heart problems, the researchers say. However, no such predictive capabilities currently exist.

“This project will provide clinicians with early warning signs and ensure that resources are allocated to patients with the greatest need,” says Natalia Trayanova, the Murray B. Sachs Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University Schools of Engineering and Medicine and the project’s principal investigator… Continue reading.

Carlsbad biotech to test drug that targets gut in COVID-19 patients

Geert Schmid-Schönbein | Via San Diego Union Tribune | May 15, 2020

Leading Biosciences hopes that its drug will keep digestive enzymes from spilling into the bloodstream and triggering the airway inflammation seen in COVID-19

COVID-19’s worst symptoms are felt in the lungs — where the airways of some patients fill with dead cells and fluid, triggering a deadly spiral of inflammation. A local biotech company thinks it can treat these symptoms by targeting a completely different part of the body: your gut.

Leading Biosciences received permission from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday to test whether its drug, designed to shore up the intestine’s natural barrier, helps severe COVID-19 patients breathe on their own and recover sooner.

It’s an unorthodox-sounding approach, but it’s based on the idea that many diseases — including COVID-19 — are connected to what happens in the gut… Continue reading.

Northeastern Professor Partners With Audax Medical Inc., to Combat Covid-19

Tom Webster | Via Northeastern University | May 12, 2020

The Problem At Hand

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of daily modern life; employees work from home, students attend class online, and individuals have been encouraged to stay inside, only leaving isolation for the essentials. The response has provided a mild reprieve from the rapid spread of the virus, though it is a temporary solution to a problem without a clear end in sight. Companies, universities and research labs involved in the health sciences across the world have shifted their focuses to combating COVID-19 and viral outbreaks to provide a better, more permanent solution for overcoming pandemic.

Recently, alongside Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, the Center for Research Innovation at Northeastern University announced their support of the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework, which is a set of licensing principles that aims to make technologies that could aid research in preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 more available. We took a moment to talk to Thomas Webster, a faculty researcher at Northeastern, about his work on one of these technologies.

The Inventor

Webster is a Professor at the College of Engineering at Northeastern University and heads a research lab responsible for researching and developing advanced nano-molecular technology that he calls the “Nano-Medicine Lab.” Earlier this month, Audax Medical, Inc., a Massachusetts-based company dedicated to developing medical innovations, licensed a technology developed in Webster’s lab that utilizes a nano-molecular approach to viral therapy… Continue reading.

Alternative to the Handshake Developed by UConn Doctors

Cato Laurencin | Via UConn Today | May 12, 2020

Did you know a single handshake can transfer 124 million bacteria?

That’s why in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic in the journal Science’s Editor’s Blog entitled “The end of the handshake?,” UConn Health doctors are recommending a new alternative to the handshake to reduce human contact, protect public health, and diminish the spread of the coronavirus.

With hand-to-hand contact now strongly discouraged, and even the popular elbow bump now considered a breeding ground for germs due to the common practice of sneezing and coughing into the elbow region, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin and Dr. Aneesah McClinton of UConn Health’s Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering have created “The Laurencin-McClinton Greeting” (LMG) to meet the evolving COVID-19 culture needs… Continue reading.

Coventor-A COVID-19 Ventilation System

Arthur Erdman | Via Earl E. Bakken MDC | May 12, 2020

In response to COVID-19, the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center has built a homemade ventilator. This device represents a rapidly scalable opportunity for healthcare providers to provide life sustaining mechanical ventilation to patients for whom no other option currently exists. The mechanical ventilator is simple to use for ICU-trained medical providers, it is compact (the size of a cereal box) and relatively inexpensive to manufacture and distribute. This device does not require a pressurized oxygen or air supply unlike commercially available mechanical ventilators.

In collaboration between the University of Minnesota, local industry leaders, and individual donors, we are able to acquire the necessary components for prototypes required to test and prove the concept. The team is hoping to ramp up and provide enough ventilators to help alleviate the stress on the healthcare system in the wake of COVID-19. All ventilators will currently ship from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Your gift will benefit the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center educational, research, and outreach programs, with the main priority right now being the COVID-19 ventilator project.

COVID-19 Puts Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence

Russ Altman | Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | May 11, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect people across the world, a technological application already familiar to many in the biotech field is lending a key supporting role in the fight to treat and stop it: artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is currently being used by many companies to identify and screen existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19, aid clinical trials, sift through trial data, and scour through patient electronic medical records (EMRs). The power of AI in COVID-19 is that it is being used to generate actionable information—some of which would be impossible without AI—much more quickly than before.

A simple definition of AI is the ability of a computer to rapidly think and learn. AI utilizes machine learning to analyze large amounts of data. It can also model predictions, screen virtually and develop insights that can be used to advance R&D and make patient medical assessments… Continue reading.

What they’re trained for

Paul Dayton | Via NC State University | May 11, 2020

Biomedical engineers at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State respond to COVID-19 by teaming to speed the development of an emergency ventilator

A prototype of the CaRE-Vent emergency ventilator, which can be
manufactured with six hours of skilled labor for less than $1,000 per unit
(Photo by UNC-Chapel Hill)

Biomedical engineering student Kathlyne Bautista always knew that her coursework and training would set her on a path to make a life-changing difference for people. But before the coronavirus pandemic, she didn’t realize just how soon that opportunity would arrive.

Bautista is part of the Carolina Respiratory Emergency – Ventilator (CaRE-Vent) team led by Dr. Yueh Lee, MD, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research team is sprinting to design and prototype an open-source ventilator in a matter of weeks that has the potential to help fill a critical equipment gap caused by a projected spike in COVID-19 patients. The group is designing the ventilator so that it could be manufactured quickly and inexpensively – at less than $1,000 and with only six hours of skilled labor per unit.

And even in the best-case scenario – where the COVID-19 curve flattens to the point that the device is never needed for patients – the team’s efforts are advancing knowledge in the biomedical design community about the best way to create emergency ventilators in the future… Continue reading.

Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Researchers Launch Ventilator Project

Keith Cook | Via Carnegie Mellon University | May 6, 2020

Low-cost device could address current and future shortages

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are developing a new, low-cost ventilator they say will address the ventilator shortage, both now and in the future, that has been made evident by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubbed Roboventilator, the device will employ CMU-developed robotic technologies and advanced sensors, filling the gap between the expensive sophisticated mechanical ventilators used in intensive care units and the current low-cost alternatives with limited capabilities being approved emergently by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We’ve already developed robotic and sensor technology that can detect force even as it drives an air pump,” said Howie Choset, professor of robotics at CMU. “When that is paired with air-management controls developed by Keith Cook, a CMU professor of biomedical engineering, we believe we can build a closed-loop system that can provide customized and appropriate ventilation to people with respiratory failure from COVID-19… Continue reading.

Researchers to develop AI to help diagnose, understand COVID-19 in lung images

Maryellen Giger | Via University of Chicago | May 6, 2020

UChicago, Argonne study hopes to learn to identify cases and guide treatment

As physicians and researchers grapple with a rapidly-spreading, deadly and novel disease, they need all the help they can get. Many centers are exploring whether artificial intelligence can help fight COVID-19, extracting knowledge from complex and rapidly growing data on how to best diagnose and treat patients.

One University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory collaboration believes that AI can be a helpful clinical partner for a particularly important kind of medical data: images. Because severe cases of COVID-19 most often present as a respiratory illness, triggering severe pneumonia in patients, chest X-rays and thoracic CT scans are a potential exam. With a grant from the new c3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, computer-aided diagnosis expert Maryellen Giger will lead an effort to develop new AI tools that use these medical images to diagnose, monitor and help plan treatment for COVID-19 patients… Continue reading.

The Covid Recovery Comes Down to Engineering

Guru Madhavan | Via Wall Street Journal | May 5, 2020

Don’t believe it? Look at the logistics required for the broadband everyone teleworking enjoys.

Reopening the country in the midst of a pandemic is akin to charging an enemy position at the top of a hill. Recovery and rebuilding will test us at every step with the risk of losing hard-won ground. But an old military insight can provide us with surer footing: amateurs talk tactics, professionals discuss logistics. Epidemiology established the right methods for fighting individual battles with Covid-19, from hand-washing to social distancing, but now it’s time to talk recovery logistics.

Much of the conversation will come back to engineering, which historically has advanced public health far more than medical care has. Sanitation, water supply, electrification, refrigeration,
highways, transportation safety, body scanning and mass production are a few examples. It’s easy to overlook how these technologies improve health outcomes, so consider one that’s an obvious part of many Americans’ lives today: the bandwidth necessary for telework… Continue reading.

ALung Announces Commercial Development of its Breakthrough Next Generation Artificial Lung

William Federspiel | Via Business Wire | May 5, 2020

ALung Technologies, Inc., the leading provider of low-flow extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) technologies for treating patients with acute respiratory failure, announced the recent initiation of commercial development of its next generation artificial lung, which expands the Company’s focus on highly efficient gas exchange devices and also broadens its applicable market.

The Company’s current product, the Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), is the only fully comprehensive extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) system specifically designed and manufactured for this therapy, as compared to complex competitive products that are modifications of existing technologies designed for other purposes. The Hemolung continues to be the most highly efficient and simple to use ECCO2R system on the market today… Continue reading.

NLM Highlights Essential Role of Clinical Databases in Pandemic

Patricia Brennan | Via GovernmentCIO Media | May 4, 2020

The National Library of Medicine is embarking on an extensive modernization effort of the world’s largest public clinical trial registry and results database, ClinicalTrials.gov, with the COVID-19 response underpinning the importance of the multi-year project.

“This effort to improve the user experience and update the technology platform is critically important for so many things that we do at NIH, our partnerships across the government and our commitment to the American public — the taxpayers and the research participants,” Kelly Wolinetz, associate director for the agency’s Office of Science Policy and NIH’s acting chief of staff, said in a virtual public meeting Thursday.

Additionally, although the novel coronavirus was discovered relatively recently — with the first full sequence of the virus published in NLM’s GenBank in mid-January — there are over 900 clinical trial studies for COVID-19 listed on the website, NLM Director Patricia Brennan noted.

“During this crisis, many libraries have closed and over the last five years many hospital libraries have restricted their services, so never before has the NLM been this important… Continue reading.

María José Alonso leads a USC project aimed at developing a new vaccine against COVID-19 based on mRNA

María José Alonso | Via MJ Alonso Lab | May 4, 2020

Developing and evaluating in preclinical studies a new vaccine based on mRNA against SARS-CoV2 capable of inducing long-term immune responses against the virus is the ultimate goal of the research project in which the laboratory led by María José Alonso participates together with the group led by Mabel Loza, both at CiMUS and FIDIS – University of Santiago de Compostela (USC). The objective of the USC laboratories is to produce a synthetic vehicle based on innocuous biomaterials, capable of transporting the mRNA into the target cells and enabling the production of the antigen in the human body.

The project has obtained funding from the Health Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII)… Continue reading.

Monitoring COVID-19 from Hospital to Home: First Wearable Device Continuously Tracks Key Symptoms

John Rogers | Via Northwestern University | May 4, 2020

Wireless sensor gently sits on throat to monitor coughs, fever, respiratory activity

The more we learn about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the more unknowns seem to arise. These ever-emerging mysteries highlight the desperate need for more data to help researchers and physicians better understand — and treat — the extremely contagious and deadly disease.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago have developed a novel wearable device and are creating a set of data algorithms specifically tailored to catch early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19 and to monitor patients as the illness progresses… Continue reading.

Protecting the Heart from COVID-19

Todd McDevitt | Via Gladstone Institutes | May 1, 2020

It’s well-known that COVID-19 affects the respiratory system, infecting healthy lung cells with the COVID-19 virus, but if it spreads to the heart it could become a much more deadly disease. A recent study found that in more than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases where heart damage occurred, there was no history of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, a blood marker for heart damage (troponin) was the single best predictor of death, suggesting that heart damage is a key factor in mortality. Now the virus has been found in heart tissue, and the virus can infect human heart cells in a dish, stopping them from beating. Investigating the link between COVID-19 and damage to the heart is vital to preventing cardiovascular effects in future patients and perhaps finding a treatment for COVID-19 induced heart failure.

Senior Investigators Bruce Conklin, MD, and Todd McDevitt, PhD, are investigating how COVID-19 might damage the heart by asking two questions: How susceptible are the cells in the heart to infection by the virus, and what pharmaceuticals could be used to lessen damage to the heart or prevent the virus from infecting heart cells altogether… Continue reading.

Cellular & Molecular Bioengineering Special Issue on ‘Emerging Technologies for Use in the Study, Diagnosis and Treatment of Patients with COVID-19’

Michael King | Via CAMB | April 30, 2020

COVID-19 is predicted to overwhelm healthcare capacity in the US and worldwide. The cellular and molecular bioengineering community has a history of innovative approaches to address pressing biomedical challenges. As a voice for the this community, the journal Cellular & Molecular Bioengineering (CAMB) welcomes commentaries, reviews, and original research articles that reflect the ways in which we continue to contribute to fields that have become central to understanding, treating, and managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Some examples include:

  • On-a-chip platforms for diagnostics, drug screening, toxicology, and basic research;
  • Innovative approaches to reduce cytokine “storms”;
  • Technologies to understand, diagnose, and treat cardiovascular and other COVID-19 comorbidities;
  • Understanding sensory function of taste and smell;
  • Platforms to understand, diagnose, and treat zoonoses;
  • Commentary from trainees, faculty, and administrators.

A team of physician-scientists have volunteered to help refine and provide constructive feedback to encourage contributors who may not be content experts in virology or patient care. These articles will be free for download at CAMB thanks to the generous support of publisher Springer Nature… Download the full document.

BrunO2 project, Tripathi Lab earn University COVID-19 Research Seed Fund awards

Anubhav Tripathi | Via Brown University | April 30, 2020

Brown Engineering professors Dan Harris, Jacob Rosenstein, Anubhav Tripathi and Roberto Zenit, are among the 15 teams of Brown faculty researchers receiving funds from a newly created University seed fund. Brown established the fund to fast track innovative research proposals that directly address the urgent needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of $350,000 was awarded to support research with the potential for significant and rapid impact on human health and research that could create products of immediate need for the healthcare system in Rhode Island and the nation.

Tripathi is teaming with Alpert Medical School professor and infectious disease expert Rami Kantor, M.D., to develop a molecular surveillance tool and capacity to monitor spread of the virus regionally and beyond. Its goal is understanding if, and how, genotypic variants of SARS-CoV-2 might impact patient outcome; the investigation of the viral mutability under treatment selection pressure; and transmission dynamics of the virus in Rhode Island and beyond, informing public health interventions… Continue reading.

OHIO researchers win grant to study treatment for possible fatal complications of COVID-19

Doug Goetz | Via Ohio University | April 30, 2020

Faculty researchers from Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Russ College of Engineering and Technology have received a $100,000 grant to investigate possible treatments for mitigating the severity of COVID-19.

Kelly McCall, Ph.D., and Douglas Goetz, Ph.D., will measure how effective a number of different chemical compounds are at preventing “cytokine storms,” a sometimes-fatal complication that can stem from COVID-19 infections.

The body responds to the presence of a pathogen by releasing a swarm of immune system proteins called cytokines to help fight off the virus or bacterium. If too many cytokines are released, a cytokine storm develops which can severely damage organs. This reaction is believed to be responsible for some of the deaths from COVID-19… Continue reading.

UC Davis Engineers, Clinician Develop Low-Cost, Portable Ventilator

Tingrui Pan | Via UC Davis | April 29, 2020

Engineers at the University of California, Davis, are working with clinicians to create a simple, inexpensive ventilator. They have developed a prototype and plan to make plans freely available online. Versions could be in clinical use in about six months. “This is a critical device to have. It provides the vital functions of a ventilator while being completely portable,” said Andrew Li, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at UC Davis Health. The device, named “AmbuBox,” is based on the ambu-bag, a handheld ventilation device. Squeezing the bag by hand pushes air into a patient’s lungs.

There is a gap between the handheld ambu-bag and expensive ventilators used in intensive care units, said Tingrui Pan, professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis. One attempt to fill this gap is MIT’s E-VENT project, but this device involves a number of mechanical moving parts… Continue reading.

Giving Distressed Lungs a Safer Fighting Chance

William Federspiel | Via Global Health News wire | April 28, 2020

A device designed at the University of Pittsburgh could help improve outcomes as a treatment for COVID-19 when used in conjunction with non-invasive or mechanical ventilation, and it recently received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Health records from a New York study showed that close to 90 percent of patients who were placed on mechanical ventilation did not survive. Some intensive care units are now considering mechanical ventilation as a last resort because of the complications and side effects associated with the process, and researchers believe this device could help.

The Hemolung Respiratory Assist System is a minimally invasive device that does the work of the lungs by removing carbon dioxide directly from the blood, much as a dialysis machine does the work of the kidneys. The device was developed by William Federspiel, PhD, professor of bioengineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and the Pittsburgh-based lung-assist device company ALung Technologies, co-founded by Federspiel… Continue reading.

Portable Microfluidic Platform Developed for Detecting Coronavirus Using Smartphone

Brian Cunningham | Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | April 24, 2020

Researchers headed by a team at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed what they claim is an inexpensive, sensitive smartphone-based device that can detect viral and bacterial pathogens in about 30 minutes, and could be adapted to test for SARS-CoV-2. The platform comprises a cartridge-housed microfluidic chip that carries out isothermal amplification of viral nucleic acids from nasal swab samples, which are then detected using the smartphone camera. The investigators report on their use of the system to detect equine viruses as a non-biohazard surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, but say that when adapted to test for coronavirus, the smartphone accessory, costing about $50, could be used to reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during pandemics such as COVID-19.

“This test can be performed rapidly on passengers before getting on a flight, on people going to a theme park, or before events like a conference or concert,” said University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Brian Cunningham, PhD, who, together with bioengineering professor Rashid Bashir, PhD, led the development of the device. “Cloud computing via a smartphone application could allow a negative test result to be registered with event organizers or as part of a boarding pass for a flight. Or, a person in quarantine could give themselves daily tests, register the results with a doctor, and then know when it’s safe to come out and rejoin society… Continue reading.

Portable Microfluidic Platform Developed for Detecting Coronavirus Using Smartphone

Rashid Bashir | Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | April 24, 2020

Researchers headed by a team at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed what they claim is an inexpensive, sensitive smartphone-based device that can detect viral and bacterial pathogens in about 30 minutes, and could be adapted to test for SARS-CoV-2. The platform comprises a cartridge-housed microfluidic chip that carries out isothermal amplification of viral nucleic acids from nasal swab samples, which are then detected using the smartphone camera. The investigators report on their use of the system to detect equine viruses as a non-biohazard surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, but say that when adapted to test for coronavirus, the smartphone accessory, costing about $50, could be used to reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during pandemics such as COVID-19.

“This test can be performed rapidly on passengers before getting on a flight, on people going to a theme park, or before events like a conference or concert,” said University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Brian Cunningham, PhD, who, together with bioengineering professor Rashid Bashir, PhD, led the development of the device. “Cloud computing via a smartphone application could allow a negative test result to be registered with event organizers or as part of a boarding pass for a flight. Or, a person in quarantine could give themselves daily tests, register the results with a doctor, and then know when it’s safe to come out and rejoin society… Continue reading.

Unique System for Using UVC Light to Sterilize Masks in Bulk Developed at Rensselaer

Deepak Vashishth | Via Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | April 23, 2020

New device for making masks reusable in fight against COVID-19 being tested at Mount Sinai

The shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a persistent problem for medical and other front-line workers as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic at close range day after day. A team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a potential solution: a machine that uses ultraviolet (UVC) light to sterilize thousands of protective masks each day, rendering them safe for reuse.

“At Rensselaer, we are focused on solving global challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly among the most significant of these in our lifetimes,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Our interdisciplinary approach, combined with the passion and ingenuity of our researchers, enables us to contribute solutions in this crisis that will continue to be helpful even after it has passed… Continue reading.

One-step diagnostic tool receives NSF RAPID grant

Michael Jewett | Via Northwestern University | April 20, 2020

Northwestern University synthetic biologists have received funding to develop an easy-to-use, quick-screen technology that can test for infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in the human body or within the environment.

Similar to a pregnancy test, the tool uses one sample to provide an easy-to-read negative or positive result. By simplifying testing, the researchers could put diagnostics into the hands of people everywhere — without the need for expensive laboratories or expertise. This could provide the large-scale testing required for ending stay-at-home orders, reopening the economy or preparing for a predicted virus resurgence in the fall… Continue reading.

4 Ways Engineers Aim to Save Lives During COVID-19

Mehmet Toner | Via Futurity | April 20, 2020

Researchers are pivoting their work to tackle the many engineering problems associated with the global coronavirus pandemic.

2. A NEW, FASTER COVID-19 TEST

Researchers are working to develop a rapid and reliable test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The currently available tests look for the presence of SARS-CoV-2’s viral RNA, a unique and identifying genetic code. Building on previous research, the new test is fundamentally different: it detects and counts individual SARS-CoV-2 viruses by capturing them with antibodies.

The primary benefit of this approach is that its testing mechanism doesn’t require extensive sample preparation.

It also reduces the chance of false negative results. Viruses can mutate, but the currently available tests rely on knowing specific genetic sequences of the virus to detect it. So, if the coronavirus mutates within one of those sequences, a current test could report a false negative — which happened during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, making it difficult to accurately diagnose who was sick and contain the outbreak.

The new test uses a different set of supplies than the existing test, leaving it less prone to supply chain shortages than the current method, says Selim Ünlü, a professor of electrical, computer, materials science, and biomedical engineering, who is teaming up with John Connor, associate professor of microbiology at the School of Medicine, from the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, and Mehmet Toner of Massachusetts General Hospital to develop the test… Read the full article.

BU Engineers Are Taking on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Joyce Wong | Via Boston University | April 17, 2020

Across Boston University’s School of Engineering, researchers are pivoting their work to tackle the many engineering problems associated with the global coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m glad I’m an engineer right now,” says Joyce Wong, professor of biomedical and materials science engineering. “There are so many problems that need to be solved in this crisis and I can actually use my expertise to help.”

Wong, like many other engineers and researchers, is diving in to do what she can to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are in addition to the first wave of help, across BU’s Charles River and Medical Campuses, that gathered personal protective equipment (PPE) from labs—shuttered by Governor Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home advisory—to donate to healthcare workers in Massachusetts. Here are four ways that BU engineers are using technology to tackle the coronavirus pandemic:

1. New medical equipment

Wong started working on two projects after talking to her cousin, Steven Horng, an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

“I started hearing about the PPE shortages from Steven, and then he started to tell me about more of the challenges healthcare workers are facing,” she says. “We’re getting close to the predicted peak of cases in Massachusetts, so I want to help out any way I can… Continue reading.

BU Engineers Are Taking on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Catherine Klapperich | Via Boston University | April 17, 2020

Across Boston University’s School of Engineering, researchers are pivoting their work to tackle the many engineering problems associated with the global coronavirus pandemic.

3. Speeding up test validation

Catherine Klapperich, director of the BU Precision Diagnostics Center and a professor of biomedical and materials science engineering, is spearheading a team to validate new types of SARS-CoV-2 tests. To contain the current COVID-19 pandemic, and prevent future relapses, an extreme ramp up of testing is needed across the United States. But there are currently roadblocks and shortages of supplies barring that from being possible. To increase testing capabilities, new tests, like Ünlü’s, must be evaluated and validated through FDA regulatory procedures. Those validations take time—so, Klapperich’s team is trying to speed up that process.

The Precision Diagnostics Center is taking on the task of preclinical lab validation of newly developed COVID-19 tests. First up, they’re working with one developed by Michael Springer’s systems biology group at Harvard Medical School… Continue reading.

BU Engineers Are Taking on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Selim Ünlü | Via Boston University | April 17, 2020

Across Boston University’s School of Engineering, researchers are pivoting their work to tackle the many engineering problems associated with the global coronavirus pandemic.

2. A novel (and more rapid) COVID-19 test

Selim Ünlü, BU professor of electrical, computer, materials science and biomedical engineering, is teaming up with longtime collaborator John Connor, BU School of Medicine associate professor of microbiology, from the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories. Together with Mehmet Toner of Massachusetts General Hospital, the trio is working to develop a rapid and reliable test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The currently available tests look for the presence of SARS-CoV-2’s viral RNA, a unique and identifying genetic code. Building on his previous research, Ünlü’s test is fundamentally different: it detects and counts individual SARS-CoV-2 viruses by capturing them with antibodies… Continue reading.

3D printed swabs developed at UofL to help fill gap in COVID-19 test kits

George Pantalos | Via University of Louisville | April 16, 2020

Innovation at the University of Louisville involving multiple departments at the university has led to a promising solution for the shortage of swabs in COVID-19 test kits. In response to a request from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, UofL’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology (AMIST), along with faculty and students in the Schools of Dentistry, Engineering and Medicine have created a 3D printed swab made of a pliable resin material.

“This effort adds to the list of our response during the pandemic, including 3D printed face shields, respirators and ventilators being manufactured through the expertise of our institute. We hope our work will provide the necessary tools for Kentucky, as well as our local health care facilities,” said Ed Tackett, director of workforce development at AMIST, which is part of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering… Continue reading.

PPE Patent Pending: Next Generation Custom-fitting Masks

Cato Laurencin | Via UConn Today | April 16, 2020

UConn is developing the latest innovative approach to tackling the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage that has developed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and it has already been used to protect front-line providers at UConn Health.

The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering has developed a method to fabricate custom-fit mask frames and exoskeletons to give conventional masks the optimal protective qualities of N95 respirators.

“We use a combination of facial recognition software and 3D printing to create the exact dimensions and make the perfect size,” says Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, the institute’s CEO. “It’s very difficult to make one-size fits all, and one size shouldn’t fit all… Continue reading.

Proteins may halt the severe cytokine storms seen in Covid-19 patients

Shuguang Zhang | Via MIT | April 16, 2020

One of the defining features of Covid-19 is the excessive immune response that can occur in severe cases. This burst of immune overreaction, also called a cytokine storm, damages the lungs and can be fatal.

A team of MIT researchers has developed specialized proteins, similar in structure to antibodies, that they believe could soak up these excess cytokines.

“The idea is that they can be injected into the body and bind to the excessive cytokines as generated by the cytokine storm, removing the excessive cytokines and alleviating the symptoms from the infection,” says Rui Qing, an MIT research scientist who is one of the senior authors of the study… Continue reading.

Vapor H2O2 sterilization as a decontamination method for the reuse of N95 respirators in the COVID-19 emergency

Ebru Oral | Via MedRxIV | April 16, 2020

Abstract

There are a variety of methods routinely used in the sterilization of medical devices using hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) including vaporization, plasma generation and ionization. Many of these systems are used for sterilization and are validated for bioburden reduction using bacterial spores. Here, we explored the benefits of using vaporized H2O2 (VHP) treatment of N95 respirators for emergency decontamination and reuse to alleviate PPE shortages for healthcare workers in the COVID-19 emergency. The factors that are considered for the effective reuse of these respirators are the fit, the filter efficiency and the decontamination/disinfection level for SARS-CoV-2, which is the causative virus for COVID-19 and other organisms of concern in the hospital environment such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or Clostridium difficile. WE showed that the method did not affect fit or filter efficiency at least for one cycle and resulted in a >6 log reduction in bacterial spores and >3.8 log reduction in the infectious SARS-CoV2 load on N95 respirators… Read the full paper.

Chafing Against Regulation, Silicon Valley Pivots to Pandemic

Michael Jewett | Via Wired | April 15, 2020

Early in the evening on March 19, the prominent Silicon Valley investor and serial entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan kicked off a tweet storm with a techno-libertarian call to arms:

“To all biotech & tech people: The Manhattan Project for the virus is going to end up being the Palo Alto Project. It’s on us. The state doesn’t have tech talent anymore. Can’t fix that overnight. But we can get them to legalize biomedical innovation with expanded right-to-try.”

Srinivasan did not respond to WIRED’S request for comment, but a subsequent tweet clarified that he was using the term Palo Alto Project to encapsulate the world of venture-backed “tech/biotech” companies that he envisions mobilizing to solve the mysteries of Covid-19 with the same awesome resolve with which J. Robert Oppenheimer and company cracked the atom… Continue reading.

Prof. Odde developing a simulator to predict COVID-19 trial outcomes

David Odde | Via University of Minnesota | April 13, 2020

Professor David Odde is creating a biophysical computer model that simulates COVID-19 on a molecular and cellular level, and tests therapies and vaccines computationally.

Peptide Therapies Could Disable Coronavirus’ Spike Proteins

Sam Stupp | Via Northwestern University | April 13, 2020

Nanostructures could safely deliver a notoriously fragile drug to virus

Researchers are developing new peptide-based therapeutics for targeting and disabling the coronavirus’ so-called “spike proteins.”

Spike proteins — the crown of bulbous projections that give the coronavirus its signature halo effect — attach to and infect healthy cells, causing COVID-19. Led by Northwestern University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the research team is engineering a new nanostructured therapy that could potentially disable the virus and prevent its infection of human cells.

The idea is based on a recent discovery from the laboratory of Bradley L. Pentelute, an associate professor of chemistry at MIT. Pentelute’s team discovered a peptide molecule that specifically and strongly binds to the coronavirus’ spike protein… Continue reading.

Researcher unraveling SARS-CoV-2 spike protein through music

Markus Buehler | Via Phys.org | April 10, 2020

The proteins that make up all living things are alive with music. Just ask Markus Buehler: The musician and MIT professor develops artificial intelligence models to design new proteins, sometimes by translating them into sound. His goal is to create new biological materials for sustainable, non-toxic applications. In a project with the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, Buehler is searching for a protein to extend the shelf-life of perishable food. In a new study in Extreme Mechanics Letters, he and his colleagues offer a promising candidate: a silk protein made by honeybees for use in hive building.

In another recent study, in APL Bioengineering, he went a step further and used AI discover an entirely new protein. As both studies went to print, the Covid-19 outbreak was surging in the United States, and Buehler turned his attention to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the appendage that makes the novel coronavirus so contagious. He and his colleagues are trying to unpack its vibrational properties through molecular-based sound spectra, which could hold one key to stopping the virus. Buehler recently sat down to discuss the art and science of his work… Continue reading.

UConn Researchers Find Blacks Are Disproportionately Impacted By COVID-19

Cato Laurencin | Via CT News Junkie | April 8, 2020

The team led by Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, former dean of the UConn School of Medicine, analyzed and reviewed the Department of Public Health’s data on COVID-19 outcomes and found that Blacks have a higher rate of infection and death in comparison to the percentage of the population they represent in the state.

However, the information collected on race and ethnicity is incomplete.

“The scarcity of this information generates a more substantial concern in which insufficiently identifying the affected may ultimately result in historically marginalized groups shouldering the greatest burden of disease and disproportionately bearing the social impact,” Laurencin and his team wrote in their paper… Continue reading.

Vitamin D3 may reduce severity of COVID-19 respiratory viral infection

Raphael Lee | Via BMJ Publishing Group | April 8, 2020

It is well established that the ubiquitously expressed master immune response transcription factor NF-κB is centrally involved in the pathogenesis of respiratory viral infections. [1] Indeed, COVID-19 is known to activate the NF-κB pathway that results in the upregulation of many inflammatory gene promoters. [2] It is postulated that this results from multiple catalytic interactions that occurs between the viral nucelocapsid proteins and NF-κB mediated immunomodulation. [3,4,5] This signaling dynamic is similar to the manner in which other highly fatal coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS-COV, are known to take control of the NF-κB pathway. [6-8] The activation of the NF-kB pathway leads to the release of inflammatory mediators often linked to the systemic inflammatory response syndrome. [8]

Vitamin D3 (VD3) also is a regulator of NF-kB mediated cellular responses, It is known to inhibit the production of the proinflammatory cytokines TNFα, interleukins, and other key activators of the cellular immune defense. [9,10] VD3 promotes phenotypic shifting of lymphocytes towards an anti-inflammatory subsets. [11] Furthermore, data from clinical studies indicate that VD3 deficiency is clinically associated with increased susceptibility to respiratory viral infections and increased severity once infected. [12] In the case of respiratory syncytial virus, vitamin D3 increases synthesis of the NF-κB inhibitor, IκBα, resulting in decreased expression of pro-inflammatory genes… Continue reading.

Racial Profiling Is a Public Health and Health Disparities Issue

Cato Laurencin | Via Springer Link | April 6, 2020

Racial profiling is a public health and health disparities issue through its disparate and adverse health impact on those targeted by this practice, as well as members of their communities. We discuss six ways police profiling and racial discrimination adversely impact Black American health. We identify four direct and two indirect ways. Four direct ways are (1) violent confrontation with police that causes injury or death; (2) police language that escalates a confrontation through micro-aggressions or macro-aggressions; (3) sub-lethal confrontations with police; (4) adverse health consequences of perceived or vicarious threat, i.e., the mere belief in potential harm by police injures health. There are two indirect ways: (5) through knowledge of or personal relationship with someone who directly experienced racial profiling; (6) through public events without a personal knowledge of the unarmed person threatened or killed by police as a result of racial profiling, but where such events cause both individuals and the community at large to perceive a threat. We support recognition of racial profiling as a public health and health disparities issue. We recommend support for community programs that address the clinical health effects of racial profiling. We also recommend widespread engagement of trauma-informed policing (TIP) that acknowledges the clinical effects of racial profiling… Continue reading.

UArizona professor submits designs for 3 low-cost ventilator prototypes to DOD

Marvin Slepian | Via KGUN9 | April 6, 2020

The University of Arizona continues to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 with low-cost ventilator prototypes.

The team submitted three designs to the Department of Defense one using something nearly everyone has lying around, a basketball.

Director Uarizona center accelerated biomedical innovation Marvin Slepian, MD said “For the more seriously ill patient we needed to… Continue reading.

Cell-free Biotechnology Could Help Accelerate COVID-19 Therapeutics

Michael Jewett | Via Northwestern University | April 2, 2020

When it comes to fighting a fast-spreading pandemic, speed is critical.

Researchers at Northwestern Engineering and Cornell University have developed a new platform that could produce new therapies more than 10 times faster than current methods. The secret behind the platform’s unmatched speed is an unlikely tool: bacteria.

After taking the molecular machinery out of bacteria, the researchers then use that machinery to make a product, such as therapeutics, in a safe, inexpensive, and rapid manner. The idea is akin to opening the hood of a car and removing the engine, which allows researchers to use the engine for different purposes, free from the constraints of the car… Continue reading.

Robots to the Rescue: How They Can Help During Coronavirus (and Future Pandemics)

Guang-Zhong Yang | Via Singularity Hub | April 1, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic forces people to keep their distance, could this be robots‘ time to shine? A group of scientists think so, and they’re calling for robots to do the “dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs” of infectious disease management.

Social distancing has emerged as one of the most effective strategies for slowing the spread of COVID-19, but it’s also bringing many jobs to a standstill and severely restricting our daily lives. And unfortunately, the one group that can’t rely on its protective benefits are the medical and emergency services workers we’re relying on to save us.

Robots could be a solution, according to the editorial board of Science Robotics, by helping replace humans in a host of critical tasks, from disinfecting hospitals to collecting patient samples and automating lab tests… Continue reading.

MIT initiates mass manufacture of disposable face shields for Covid-19 response

Elazer Edelman | Via MIT | April 1, 2020

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to health care professionals has become increasingly problematic as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. The sheer volume of PPE needed to keep doctors, nurses, and their patients safe in this crisis is daunting — for example, tens of millions of disposable face shields will be needed nationwide each month. This week, a team from MIT launched mass manufacturing of a new technique to meet the high demand for disposable face shields.

The single piece face shield design will be made using a process known as die cutting. Machines will cut the design from thousands of flat sheets per hour. Once boxes of these flat sheets arrive at hospitals, health care professionals can quickly fold them into three-dimensional face shields before adjusting for their faces… Continue reading.

Solving the Ventilator Shortage with Windshield Wiper Parts

Thomas Milner | Via The University of Texas at Austin | April 1, 2020

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are building a new type of ventilator made of cheap, widely available materials to help fill the demand created by the spread of COVID-19 for these critical devices that help patients breathe.

Ventilators become necessary when patients can’t breathe on their own, physically pumping oxygen into their lungs. They are in short supply. That’s why the researchers are building a “bridge ventilator” that can be replicated and mass-produced by others… Continue reading.

Here’s How Nanoparticles Could Help Us Get Closer to a Treatment for COVID-19

Thomas Webster | Via Northeastern University | March 31, 2020

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.

Since the outbreak began in late 2019, researchers have been racing to learn more about SARS-CoV-2, which is a strain from a family of viruses known as coronavirus for their crown-like shape.

Northeastern chemical engineer Thomas Webster, who specializes in developing nano-scale medicine and technology to treat diseases, is part of a contingency of scientists that are contributing ideas and technology to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fight the COVID-19 outbreak… Continue reading.

Covid-19 diagnostic based on MIT technology might be tested on patient samples soon

Daniel Anderson | Via MIT | March 31, 2020

As more Covid-19 cases appear in the United States and around the world, the need for fast, easy-to-use diagnostic tests is becoming ever more pressing. A startup company spun out from MIT is now working on a paper-based test that can deliver results in under half an hour, based on technology developed at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).

Cambridge-based E25Bio, which developed the test, is now preparing to submit it to the FDA for “emergency use authorization,” which would grant temporary approval for using the device on patient samples during public health emergencies… Continue reading.

Coronavirus Testing Shouldn’t Be This Complicated

Catherine Klapperich | Via The Verge | March 30, 2020

Engineers have the technology to make it better

The US reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 21st. Eight weeks later, there still aren’t enough tests for the virus available for everyone who needs them. “It is a failing,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a House briefing last week. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now.”

People who are sick or have been in contact with sick people are struggling to get tested. Until last week, the number of tests that could be run per day in the United States was limited to around 7,000. Labs are struggling to get the supplies they need to meet the demand.

“If the health system is working well, those tests should be good and help us manage this epidemic,” says Catherine Klapperich, director of the Laboratory for Diagnostics and Global Healthcare Technologies at Boston University. “It’s frustrating that the testing we thought we could rely on didn’t roll out the way we expected it to… Continue reading.

Coronavirus Testing Shouldn’t Be This Complicated

Paul Yager | Via The Verge | March 30, 2020

Engineers have the technology to make it better

The US reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 21st. Eight weeks later, there still aren’t enough tests for the virus available for everyone who needs them. “It is a failing,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a House briefing last week. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now.”

People who are sick or have been in contact with sick people are struggling to get tested. Until last week, the number of tests that could be run per day in the United States was limited to around 7,000. Labs are struggling to get the supplies they need to meet the demand.

PCR is the gold-standard testing platform for viruses because it’s highly sensitive, says Paul Yager, a professor in the department of bioengineering at the University of Washington — it can detect even a tiny amount of virus in a patient sample and is less likely to incorrectly have a negative result… Continue reading.

Futuristic Technology Prints 1,000 Face Shield Components Per Day

Chad Mirkin | Via Northwestern University | March 30, 2020

Researchers hope to make a dent in hospitals’ need with a single 3D printer

Northwestern University researchers have demonstrated the ability to generate 1,000 components for face shields per day — with a single 3D printer.

A critical piece of personal protective equipment (PPE), face shields protect health care workers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as they treat patients.

When Northwestern researchers Chad A. Mirkin and David Walker heard about the PPE shortage in hospitals, their team sprang into action. In October, Mirkin and his research group, in a breakthrough article in the journal Science, unveiled a new 3D printing technique called “high-area rapid printing” (HARP), a 13-feet-tall printer with a 2.5 square-foot print bed that can print about half a yard in an hour — a record throughput for the 3D printing field… Continue reading.

Open Source Ventilator Project

Samsun Lampotang | Via University of Florida | March 28, 2020

Open Source, Open Architecture Ventilator Engineering Design Specifications

This open source project has been created to address predicted ventilator shortage worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic and host open source contributions – Click here for details.

How Does a Library Respond to a Global Health Crisis?

Patricia Brennan | Via National Library of Medicine | March 24, 2020

Around the world, scientists, public health officials, medical professionals, and others are working to address the coronavirus pandemic.

At NLM, we’ve been working on multiple fronts to improve researchers’ understanding of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the novel coronavirus) and aid in the response to COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus). By enhancing access to relevant data and information, NLM is demonstrating how libraries can contribute in real time to research and response efforts during this crisis… Continue reading.