Researchers are busy thinking outside the box during this unprecedented moment. And it’s not its first rodeo with a deadly virus. Dr. Jonas Salk was at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine when he developed the polio vaccine.
“There are virologists all around the world who have been trained for this moment,” CVR director and Jonas Salk Chair for Vaccine Research Paul Duprex, Ph.D., said at the time. “We have colleagues in many parts of the world who collaborate and work with us to share information and share knowledge because this is important.”
Another research team at the school of medicine was the first to introduce a peer-reviewed vaccine candidate. The authors of the study call it PittCoVacc (short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine) The researchers developed a novel approach for delivering the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency. The array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest.
“Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal,” said co-senior author Louis Falo, professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC.
Epistemix, a Pitt spinout startup that has created a disease progression analytics platform to help governments and health insurers optimize their decision making, is currently being bombarded with requests.
Carnegie Mellon University is conducting a research project with Facebook’s Data for Good program in which they will survey U.S. users about their health. The project is aimed at gathering “heat maps” of self-reported coronavirus infections. The researchers say the information gathered will help them predict where medical resources are needed.
The extraordinary work that the medical and research community is doing in Pittsburgh is growing. We’ll keep you updated.
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FLYOVER RESEARCH: GROUNDING COVID-19
UofL researchers work with area hospitals to supply COVID-19 information
Because the COVID-19 virus is new and wholly unique, medical personnel and researchers have an uphill battle to understand it, including how the virus is spread, who becomes ill, and how the illness progresses.
This information is needed not only to protect the community, but to protect healthcare workers from becoming ill.
Infectious disease researchers at the University of Louisville are working with 10 Louisville hospitals and two southern Indiana hospitals to process tests and study the illness.
Julio Ramirez, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and Ruth Carrico, PhD, RN, professor in the division, along with Donghoon Chung, PhD, and Kenneth Palmer, PhD, director of the Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM), have developed a surveillance program to track the prevalence of the illness and which patients are most affected.
“With the information we are gathering, we will better understand how transmission occurs. When we understand how transmission occurs, that provides us the tools we need to develop some effective interventions,” Carrico said.
Chung has established and refined procedures for high-throughput testing of more than 350 clinical sample per day.
The university is supporting this research with $500,000 in funding, but additional funds are needed to continue the research over time. Donations specifically for this research can be made online here.
University of Minnesota creates ventilators smaller than a cereal box
As devastating as it is, COVID-19 is inspiring technical achievement across the country.
Standard ventilators require oxygen tanks and are cumbersome to move. The Minnesota researchers hope their ventilator will be easier to produce and less expensive than standard equipment. Instead of pressurizing oxygen, their device includes a machine that squeezes an air bag to help people breathe.
The Cincinnati marketing startup received 259 votes in the final round, beating ConnXus, which had 161. Navistone and ConnXus entered Tech Madness as the No. 6 seed and No. 2 seed, respectively. Navistone beat out companies in industries ranging from agriculture to funeral home management.
Grand Rapids engineers recognized for energy-saving projects
Two engineers at Grand Rapids-based architecture firm TowerPinkster took home prestigious honors at The Technology Awards, given to members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) who implement innovative design concepts that improve indoor air quality, reduce energy consumption, and add to overall occupant comfort in public and commercial spaces.
Ryan Idema, PE, and Jesse Hendershot, PE, were recognized at both the regional and national level for expansions and renovations they oversaw at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.
Their designs included ducting fresh air from the airport's green roof, adding active carbon filtration in the airport's outdoor air energy recovery unit, and installing an adaptable heating and cooling system that operates with no downtime, reducing the amount of time and energy needed to achieve and maintain consistent thermal comfort.
The TowerPinkster team won first place at the regional level and an honorable mention at the national level in the new commercial build category.
By developing machine learning and analytics platforms for companies, phData brought in $18 million in revenue in 2018, serving clients in health insurance, law enforcement, and healthcare.
Its specialty is in helping companies and organizations that have massive data sets but lack the expertise to build their own machine learning platforms. One example is the National Marrow Donor Program, which has 42 million pieces of DNA data on its donors. phData’s AI solutions drastically reduced the time required to make a match.
In just four years, phData grew to employ 150 workers and serve 60 businesses. Runners up on the Inc. list were Chicago’s Inspire11 and Detroit’s Great Logistics.
Pittsburgh startup uses AI to optimize recycling routes
RoadRunner Recycling will use the money to double its staff and expand into new markets. Its customers are schools, businesses, and factories that want to improve recycling and save money.
Machine learning might not seem applicable to recycling, but RoadRunner is able to help organizations by predicting what materials industries will generate.
A typical school’s waste stream is 66% food waste, for example, while a shopping mall’s waste is mainly cardboard and paper. RoadRunner customizes a recycling plan for each customer, including the most efficient route to haul its recyclables.
RoadRunner currently operates in 10 cities and plans to roll out to 10 more this year, including Phoenix, Austin, and San Diego. The new funding round raises the company’s total to $44 million.
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
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