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University Providing $100,000 to Support Urgent, Short-term COVID-19 Research

April 27, 2020

College of Medicine faculty members are involved in more than half of all the short-term, urgent action COVID-19 research and development efforts receiving support from the University’s $100,000 Rapid Response Research & Development Fund.

Drexel’s Office of Research & Innovation called earlier this month for project proposals from Drexel researchers looking to investigate COVID-19 prevention, treatment, risk and more. The office reviewed 40 proposals and recently named the 17 grant-winning projects.

Follow the College on Twitter and check our COVID-19 response web page to keep up with news and developments on the projects below.

Behavioral Health and COVID-19

David Bennett, PhD, and Barbara Schindler, MD, are collaborating with researchers in the College of Computing & Informatics on a pilot study to create and observe an online peer support group for women with substance abuse disorder seeking community during the pandemic.

Dr. Bennett is a professor of psychiatry, a psychologist, and the parent-child counseling program director at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. His usual research focuses are childhood and adolescent psychology, and chronic illness.

Dr. Schindler is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and vice dean emerita of educational and academic affairs. Substance abuse disorder is one of her research interests, and substance abuse in women is among the topics on which Dr. Schindler has over 150 publications, abstracts and presentations.

Older Adults and COVID-19

Michael Weingarten, MD, MBA, professor of surgery, is working with faculty from the College of Nursing and Health Professions to record older adult patients’ observations – and those of their physicians – on telemedicine and the ways COVID-19 has impacted their health. Dr. Weingarten is also a renowned researcher in wound healing.

Sharing COVID-19 Information

Charles B. Cairns, MD, Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean and senior vice president of medical affairs, is developing a COVID-19 information-sharing mobile app. Dr. Cairns brings to the project varied professional experiences and a record of award-winning research in emergency medicine and critical care.

Personal Safety and COVID-19 prevention

Funding was also awarded to a collaboration by Dean Cairns and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design professor Genevieve Dion, who will create protective face masks for health care workers and the general public.

Dion has been creating personal protective equipment (PPE) for local medical professionals facing a dangerous nationwide PPE shortage. In March, Dr. Cairns helped Dion connect with doctors for feedback on her PPE prototypes.

Therapies and Vaccines for COVID-19

Irwin Chaiken, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, received funding for the study “Irreversible Inactivation of SARS-Cov-2 by Spike Protein Targeting.” Dr. Chaiken studies cell proteins’ role in health and disease, particularly relating to HIV.

Elias El Hadad, PhD, and Michele Kutzler, PhD, received funding for their study “Adenosine Deaminase-1 Enhances Efficacy of a DNA Vaccine Encoding SARS-Cov-2 Spike Glycoprotein S1 Through Modulation of T Follicular Helper Cells.”

Dr. El Haddad is the director of the MD/PhD dual degree program and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine. He has research experience in human immunology, systems biology, infectious disease pathogenesis, and vaccine development and improvement. Dr. El Haddad has made major scientific findings regarding HIV as well.

Dr. Kutzler is the assistant dean for faculty development, and an associate professor of medicine, and microbiology and immunology. Her research interests include vaccinology, immunology and infectious disease, and she has previously researched DNA vaccines and new methods of response to Clostridium difficile.

Julio Martin-Garcia, PhD, and Sonia Navas-Martin, PhD, are studying “SARS-Cov-2 Infection and Sensing in Primary Human Macrophages.”

Dr. Martin-Garcia, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, has previously conducted research on HIV. Dr. Navas-Martin is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology who has experience researching immune responses, as well as treatment options for both chronic conditions and acute, fatal diseases. She has studied multiple viral pathogens, including coronaviruses.