Flyover Country fights the pandemic
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OSU and Northeastern are developing COVID-19 breathalyzer devices
Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay
Scientists have been using the breathalyzer for years and for a number of reasons—it's not just a tool to measure alcohol intoxication. Researchers use breathalyzers to analyze breath for things like diabetes, some forms of cancer, and respiratory diseases. So it’s not surprising that they’re looking at a possible rapid-response COVID-19 test that relies on breath rather than throat and nose swabs.
Ohio State University engineering professor Perena Gouma has created a prototype for this type of test that she thinks can detect COVID-19 biomarkers and that could deliver results in 15 seconds. Northeastern University engineering professor Nian Sun has been studying sensors that can detect coronavirus, and he has developed a handheld breathalyzer device.
Both researchers are being supported by National Science Foundation grants and plan to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA.
WashU COVID vaccine licensed by St Louis startup
An “underdog” vaccine developed at Washington University could be a come-from-behind winner in the race to defeat COVID-19. That’s the hope of Precision Virologics, a St. Louis startup that has acquired the rights to the vaccine in the US, Europe, and Japan.
The vaccine is considered an underdog because it won’t go to human trials until next spring. But it has some advantages over the high-profile ones currently leading the race: It is administered in a nasal spray, requires a single dose, is easier to administer, and destroys coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract in mice.
What’s more, an underdog vaccine winning the race is not unprecedented: The oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin proved to be safer and more effective than the injectable vaccine developed by Jonas Salk several years earlier.
The vaccine is a nice St. Louis story, too. It was developed at Washington University, will be tested in clinical trials at WashU and St. Louis University, and is being licensed to a St. Louis startup with seed investment from St. Louis’ BioGenerator.
An over-the-counter COVID-19 test?
University of Cincinnati researchers are closing in on what could be a quick, simple COVID-19 test that you can pick up at the drugstore.
UC grad student Amy Drexelius, who is lead student researcher on the project, said you could get results within minutes.
Although a functional device hasn’t been created yet, the theory is this: A CO2 cartridge applies pressure to a saliva sample, which concentrates the virus—even a small amount—for the most accurate results. The sample is then placed on test strips, which detect the virus and display results, similar to a pregnancy test.
Development of the device could be a few years off, but Drexelius said that if a company gets on board, it would take only months to have working test kits.
Attend the virtual Vogt Awards Demo Day on Oct. 15
Register now for the virtual Vogt Awards Demo Day on Thursday, Oct. 15.
Meet the six 2020 early-stage companies selected to each receive a $25,000 grant, participation in a 10-week lean startup program, coaching from scalable startup CEOs, industry mentorship, and strategic introductions. With the announcement of these winners, the Community Foundation of Louisville is honored to have supported 84 companies with $3.5 million in Vogt Award grants throughout the program's 20-year history. You don’t want to miss this celebration, register here.
CMU develops app to help catch COVID-19 cases early
Carnegie Mellon University is hoping staff, faculty, and students will adopt a new app, called NOVID, that can help track COVID-19 spread. The mobile app, created by Po-Shen Loh, a professor in CMU’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, alerts users that someone within 12 degrees of separation in their user network has tested positive for the disease and tells them how long they’ve interacted with the infected person. Loh and almost two dozen students and alumni have been working on the app since March.
NOVID, which is partnering with CMU’s University Health Services, also allows users to self-report their own positive case anonymously. That anonymity sets the app apart—it doesn’t store GPS location but instead assigns a random number that communicates with other smartphones.
Studying the impact of COVID on early responders
Researchers at The Ohio State University have begun a five-year study to examine the impact of COVID-19 on first responders, healthcare workers, and their families. The research is funded by a $10 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center will conduct the research. The university expects to follow 2,000 participants for the five-year study.
First responders and healthcare workers are at constant high risk and are well poised to help scientists understand the disease. The study will use serological and molecular tests to better understand exposure risks, transmission, immune responses, disease severity, and testing/vaccination outcomes. In addition to the medical centers, researchers will partner with the Columbus police and fire departments to enlist participants for the study.
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