Therapeutics and Biology
Ralph Baric has a primary appointment in the Department of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Public Health, a joint appointment with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine, and is also a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC). Much of his research is focused on coronaviruses and the lab is currently working on many aspects of SARS-CoV-2 including model development, mechanistic biology, and identification of potential antivirals and vaccine formulations. Furthermore, because Baric is a renowned expert on coronaviruses, he has served on panels and appeared on many media outlets and public COVID-19 forums. His group published a preliminary report in bioRxiv that highlights the potential therapeutic value of a new antiviral, NHC/EIDD-2801.
Researchers: Ralph Baric
Mark Heise, Professor in the Departments of Genetics and Microbiology and Immunology and member of LCCC is working to develop mouse models of SARS-CoV-2 or testing of antivirals and vaccines. Heise has previously worked to develop mice receptive to MERS and SARS and works collaboratively with Ralph Baric.
Researchers: Ralph Baric, Mark Heise
Aravinda de Silva is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology with expertise in the area of mosquito-borne flavivirus and dengue virus vaccines and diagnostics. He is applying this broad-based knowledge of virology and human immunology to develop assays for specific detection of SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM antibodies. Furthermore, de Silva is working with Ralph Baric’s group to characterize vaccine responses.
Researchers: Ralph Baric, Aravinda de Silva
Craig Cameron, Jeffrey Houpt Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Jamie Arnold, research associate professor in the UNC Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, has partnered with Riboscience, LLC to screen their library of nucleotide analogues to identify those with efficacy against the SARS CoV-2 replicase, the RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase needed for multiplication of all RNA viruses.
Researchers: Jamie Arnold, Craig Cameron
Nathanial Moorman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and LCCC member. Moorman is using his expertise to screen for new antiviral agents against SARS-CoV-2 in partnership with Ralph Baric and Mark Heise. This is also a collaboration with the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Tim Willson is a Professor at the Structural Genome Consortium-UNC Laboratory where his team is working with UNC virologists to identify drugs that slow the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to multiply inside cells. The Willson group has identified kinase enzymes that are modified by a closely related coronavirus when it infects cells. Drugs that target these enzymes will be tested for anti-viral activity in human lung cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
Keywords: host kinases, antiviral drug development
Researchers: Tim Willson
Bryan Roth is the Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, has an appointment in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and is the Project Director of the NIMH Psychoactive Drug Screening Program. Roth and his team are profiling candidate drugs to determine mechanism(s) of action which may contribute to therapeutic activity for COVID-19, and are also beginning screens of approved medications to determine if they might inhibit viral interactions with host receptors. The goal of his efforts is to discover medications that are already approved for human-use as potential therapeutics for COVID-19.
Researchers: Bryan Roth
Alex Tropsha is the Associate Dean of Pharmacoinformatics, at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the K.H. Lee Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry. His team is very active in several computational research projects on possible target and drug discovery against SARS-CoV-2 virus, having generated several putative inhibitors of the main protease of the virus that are awaiting experimental confirmation. The Tropsha teams innovative modeling efforts hold promise in both collapsing the time-to-discovery window, and, using data science to identify existing approved medicines that may support recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Keywords: protease inhibitors of virus, computational modeling
Researchers: Alex Tropsha
Ron Swanstrom is the Charles P. Postelle, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry has a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and is the Director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research. In collaboration with Ralph Baric’s team, Swanstrom tested a candidate therapeutic NHC/EIDD-2801: a ribonucleoside with broad-spectrum antiviral activity that works by inducing mutations in the viral genome.
Researchers: Ron Swanstrom, Ralph Baric
Sam Lai is the Director, Pharmacoengineering Program, Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics Assistant Director, Academic Innovation, Eshelman Institute for Innovation Associate Professor, Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics Adjunct Assistant Professor, UNC Department of Biomedical Engineering. He brings world-class expertise in developing a variety of
muco-trapping monoclonal antibody (mAb) candidates as inhaled immunotherapy against COVID-19. Lai’s team is actively evaluating the first candidate in a hamster efficacy model after positive in vitro data; this compound can be fast-tracked to human studies within 2–3 months, pending support from DoD. In parallel, we are engineering various novel mAbs against COVID19, and also making non-infectious COVID19 that the community can work with.
Keywords: mucus, antiviral drug development, antibody
Researchers: Sam Lai
K.H. Lee, Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry seeks the 1) Identification of potential natural product-based new drugs for treating COVID-19; 2) Select potential anti-COVID-19 compounds from an in-house library containing over 5,000 unique compounds from natural sources and chemical synthesis based on both virtual screening results and rational medicinal chemistry perspectives; 3) Evaluate lead compounds by enzyme-affinity experiments; 4) Develop a series of novel antiviral agents by modifying the potent lead compounds.
Keywords: natural products, enzyme inhibitors
Researchers: K.H. Lee
Rihe Liu is an Associate Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry and his group is Investigating how to reduce the ‘cytokine storm’ frequently happening in severe COVID-19 cases. Analyzing several other targets on COVID-19, specifically the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression areas.
Researchers: Rihe Liu
Jian Liu is the John & Deborah McNeill, Jr. Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry who explores COVID-19’s spike protein involved in binding to a host’s cell receptors that establishes infection. Recent scientific reporting suggests that heparin sulfate interacts with COVID-19 spike protein and the Liu group plans to study which specific heparin sulfate structure displays the highest affinity to COVID-19 spike protein. Heparin sulfate also attenuates the inflammation induced by COVID-19 infection. It is now known that many patients infected by COVID-19 suffer from uncontrolled inflammation responses in the lung, which leads to lung failure. Using heparin sulfate, the group will explore inhibiting a series of proinflammatory proteins released after COVID-19 infection to reduce the symptoms in patients.
Keywords: viral entry, spike protein, heparin sulfate
Researchers: Jian Liu
J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine and Angela Wahl, Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Disease in the Department of Medicine are both working on developing novel models of SARS-CoV-2 with Ralph Baric to further COVID-19 research. A recent Nature Biotechnology paper describes how Wahl and Garcia-Martinez previously developed a humanized mouse in collaboration with Baric for the in vivo testing of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus and other respiratory pathogens.
Researchers: Ralph Baric, J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, Angela Wahl
Angela Kashuba is the Dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the John A. and Margaret P. McNeill Sr. Distinguished Professor, and Director, Clinical Pharmacology and Analytical Chemistry Core, UNC Center for AIDS Research. In responding to the global pandemic of COVID19 she uses her expertise in mass spectrometry imaging methods to analyze how a potential therapeutic drug might behave in cells to support human recovery from infection.
Keywords: pk analysis of antivirals, mass spec analysis, cell culture
Researchers: Angela Kashuba
Gauri Rao is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experiential Education. Her work explores Cellular Pharmacokinetics/Pharmacodelivery (PK/PD) of novel antivirals for COVID-19 in collaborations with Tony Hickey, Sasha Kabanov and Ric Boucher on COVID-19 research projects.
Keywords: pk/pd modeling of inhalational therapy in animal and human subjects, pk/pd modeling, in vivo study design
Researchers: Richard Boucher, Gauri Rao, Anthony Hickey, Alexander Kabanov
Luther Bartelt, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, is spearheading a convalescent serum trial that obtains serum containing antibodies against COVID-19 from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and gives it as a therapeutic to patients suffering from COVID-19. Investigators from the UNC Blood Bank and Division of Infectious Diseases are also involved in this study. With a focus on treatment and research, UNC-Chapel Hill has recently created a blood bank from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, which is being used in compassionate care cases as a treatment option for the sickest COVID-19 patients.
Keywords: therapeutics, diagnostics, blood banking
Researchers: Luther Bartelt
Rachel Graham, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, examines emerging infectious diseases, specifically SARS and coronavirus. She uses basic science techniques to examine host receptors and disease transmission to identify potential candidates for epidemic surveillance and preventive measures against these deadly infectious diseases.
Keywords: spatial health research, infectious diseases, epidemiological surveillance, coronaviruses
Researchers: Rachel Graham
Michael Emch, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Geography and Epidemiology, is examining the value of a potential sero-surveillance project involving all hospitalized patients in the UNC system. The project would take serum from different age strata and assess whether patients had antibodies to COVID-19; it would then follow the population spatially over time as they are readmitted. The model may provide insights into the number of COVID-19 subclinical infections. Dr. Emch is also currently developing new work in spatial data science and infectious disease to understand COVID-19 in Africa.
Keywords: spatial health research, epidemiology
Researchers: Michael Emch
Kathleen Harris, Haar Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology, is leading a team using data sets from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (ADD Health) to build models of COVID-19 disease susceptibility and progression. One project using gene expression data (i.e., RNA) is assembling expression signatures that appear similar to expression signatures found in animal research or human samples related to corona-type infections (like SARS) and which are known signatures related both to the susceptibility and the severity of the virus. Dr. Harris’ team will look for overlap of these signatures in the ADD Health data to identify the genes expressed in response to corona-like infection. They will then examine whether life course factors (e.g., early childhood diseases, environmental exposures, early childhood adversity, etc.) are related to the expression signatures for susceptibility and severity of corona-type virus infections. The work is exploratory in nature and potential outcomes are uncertain. Dr. Harris’ team also plans to collect COVID-19 symptom data while collecting microbiome data from survey participants to drive analyses of symptom data on a nationally-representative sample of adults in their forties.
Keywords: sociology, population health
Researchers: Kathleen Harris
Melinda Beck, Professor, Raza Shaikh, Associate Professor, Beth Mayer-Davis, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine, and Penny Gordon-Larsen, Professor in the Department of Nutrition, are working to understand why people with obesity and diabetes are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications and why they suffer at greater rates than non-obese and non-diabetic people.
Keywords: health disparities, comorbidities
Researchers: Raza Shaikh, Penny Gordon-Larsen, Melinda Beck, Beth Mayer-Davis
Diagnosis, Tools, and Prevention
Melissa Miller is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Director of both the Clinical Molecular Microbiology Laboratory and the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory. Miller focuses on the use of molecular methodologies to understand the basis of clinical treatment failures related to infectious diseases and on developing more accurate and cost-effective laboratory tests. Recently, Miller and her team created a high-quality COVID-19 diagnostic test based on the World Health Organization assay which is now used for UNC Health patients, significantly increasing our ability to diagnose and care for patients across North Carolina.
Researchers: Melissa Miller
Shannon Wallet, Dean for Research at the Adams School of Dentistry at UNC, Robert Maile, UNC School of Medicine Department of Surgery, and Matthew Wolfgang, UNC Department of Microbiology/Immunology and Marsico Lung Institute are standing up 1) LDMS driven COVID-19 clinical specimen collection and tracking 2) BSL2+ driven clinical specimen processing for multiple IRB approved research studies of COVID-19 patients. 3) using SOPs approved by EHS/IBC for processing of blood, saliva, lung fluids, nasal fluid, urine, stool. 4) analysis of inactivated samples for immunological, proteomic and metabolomic outcomes 5) Banking of excess COVID-19 clinical specimen materials. They are working in close collaboration with clinicians Natalie Bowman, Professor of Medicine in the UNC Division of Infectious Disease, Rob Hagan in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Jason Mock also in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
Downstream assays are being coordinated by the PIs of the IRBs (Bowman/Hagan/Mock), the Baric/Heise/DeSilva consortium, the Marsico Lung Institute (led by Richard Boucher and Matthew Wolfgang) and the DELTA Translational Core (led by Maile/Wallet).
Researchers: Shannon Wallet, Robert Maile, Matthew Wolfgang
Rachel Noble is the Mary and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Professor Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Marine Sciences, and Director of the UNC Institute for the Environment Morehead Field Site. She brings extensive expertise in the interworking of molecular diagnostic tools being used for SARS-CoV-2 quantification in both clinical and wastewater/environmental samples, including qPCR, digital droplet PCR and sample processing and extraction approaches. Current collaborative relationships with industry partners such as Biogx, designer of rapid SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tools that are up for FDA EUA approval for rapid testing. We plan to use this new rapid tool for improved assessment in NC with particular attention to rural systems that are largely unprepared. The focus on co-risk associated with wastewater, septic systems, and package treatment systems can help manage risk associated with sewage spills and flooding events.
Her teams expertise in the application of the rapid diagnostic methods to sample matrices such as wastewater, marine and freshwater recreational waters, and other systems like seafood and shellfish, to understand resurgence of food-borne disease risk as the global population transitions back to normal functioning.
Keywords: water quality, sars-cov-2, rural disease transmission, risk assessment, qpcr, molecular diagnostics, food safety, digital droplet pcr
Researchers: Rachel Noble
Jared Weiss, Associate professor in the Department of Medicine and Ben Vincent, Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, are working on SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in collaboration with Mark Heise in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Department of Genetics, and Ralph Baric in the Department of Epidemiology. They are identifying parts of the virus with low genetic variation that can effectively stimulate immune responses to include in a putative vaccine for testing in animal models of SARS-CoV-2.
Keywords: vaccines, therapeutics, clinical trials
Researchers: Ralph Baric, Jared Weiss, Ben Vincent
Jenny Ting, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Genetics is developing novel SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and testing these vaccines in mouse models of disease.
Keywords: vaccines, clinical trials
Researchers: Jenny Ting
Gaorav Gupta, Assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, is developing more sensitive methods to detect SARS-CoV-2 so that very low levels of the virus can be detected in patients.
Keywords: testing, diagnostics
Researchers: Gaorav Gupta
Mike Ramsey, Golby Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, has developed a 12-plex respiratory assay that includes multiple strains of coronavirus. His lab is currently working to add COVID-19 to the respiratory panel to aid in early diagnosis of the disease and assessment of its progression. The platform also has potential application to the pandemic in using proteins (cytokines) to monitor host response. Dr. Ramsey’s work, which focuses on multiplex protein assays, is part of a ≈$20M diagnostic-focused effort funded by DARPA to develop multiplexed digital assays for nucleic acids and proteins. DTRA is funding further development of a high-throughput instrument that could process 100 samples/hr at 10–24 plex.
Keywords: testing, diagnostics, assays
Researchers: Mike Ramsey
Ji-Yeon Jo, Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies and Director of the Carolina Asia Center, and Kevin Fogg, Associate Director of the Carolina Asia Center, are working to create an information portal linked from the Carolina Asia Center website. The tool would provide information about the novel coronavirus in Asian contexts and its impact on Asian America. Resource links identified by faculty members and center affiliates will be tagged by (1) the Asian countries involved, and (2) the issues at play. Issues may include (a) testing, (b) treatment and prevention, (c) tracking (e.g., ethics of tracking, tracking technologies), (d) economic impact and government economic responses, (e) healthcare costs, (f) border control, (g) treatment of minority populations (non-citizens, religious minorities, political outsiders, etc.) in a time of pandemic, and (h) cultural responses. The resource would tag materials for both geographic focus and thematic content, allowing interested students, scholars, and community members to follow issues or locations of interest to them.
Keywords: tracking, spatial health research, health economics, biomedical ethics
Researchers: Kevin Fogg, Ji-Yeon Jo
Paul Dayton, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor and Interim Chair of the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, is coordinating teams of engineers to make smaller masks to fit patients at NC Children’s Hospital.
Keywords: prevention, pediatrics, masks
Researchers: Paul Dayton
Nora Rosenberg, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and an infectious diseases epidemiologist, is working to improve contact tracing of COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries.
Keywords: health disparities, contact tracing
Researchers: Nora Rosenberg
Therapeutic Delivery Systems
Anthony (Tony) Hickey directs UNC Catalyst for Rare Disease, and is an RTI distinguished fellow in and program director for inhaled therapeutics, and is Professor Emeretis in the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He is an expert in pharmaceutical formulations of antivirals and an expert in aerosol therapeutics.
Keywords: formulations, drug delivery, antiviral drug development
Researchers: Anthony Hickey
Alexander (Sasha) Kabanov is the Director at the UNC Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery and the Mescal Swain Ferguson Distinguished Professor. His team is focusing on delivery of anti-CoV drugs and therapeutic agents to the respiratory track. Significant effort right now is focused on aerosolized delivery of insoluble active compounds, and is part of self-assembled Cross-disciplinary Consortium with Tony Hickey, Angela Kashuba, and Alex Tropsha, as well as experts in Schools of Public Health and Medicine.
Keywords: inhalational drug delivery, drug delivery
Researchers: Anthony Hickey, Angela Kashuba, Alexander Kabanov, Alex Tropsha
Juliane Nguyen, Associate Professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics, is developing new formulations and biomaterials to create new therapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19.
Researchers: Juliane Nguyen
Research Support for Clinical Care and Studies
Ross Boyce and Jessica Lin are both Assistant Professors in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine, with a research focus on studying healthcare workers within the scope of COVID-19 as the pandemic progresses.
Researchers: Ross Boyce, Jessica Lin
Dirk Dittmer is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Director of the UNC Viral Genomics Core, and Director of the Virology and Global Oncology Programs in LCCC. Dittmer and the Viral Genomics Core are setting up high-throughput, high-sensitivity COVID-19 viral load assays to augment hospital operations and to support clinical trials and pre-clinical studies. In addition, they are implementing next generation sequencing assays to characterize COVID-19 strains and other infectious agents in clinical research studies. Members of the laboratory of Blossom Damania, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, are also involved in these efforts. Dittmer is also working with Melissa Miller, William Fischer, Subhashini Sellers, Ralph Baric and other faculty in the School of Medicine and Gillings School of Public Health.
Researchers: William Fischer, Subhashini Sellers, Ralph Baric, Melissa Miller, Dirk Dittmer, Blossom Damania
UNC is a global leader in infectious disease modeling, and decision with leadership from Myron Cohen, Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health and Medical Affairs, Stephan Cole, Professor in the Dept of Epidemiology, Michael Kosorok, W.R. Kenan Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Dept of Biostatistics, Michael Hudgens Professor in the Department of Biostatistics all bring world class modeling teams to explore contact tracing, host-antigen interactions, machine learning and casual modeling expertise to the outbreak of SARS2-COVID19 pandemic.
Keywords: projections and modeling, healthcare sector workforce
Researchers: Stephan Cole, Myron Cohen, Michael Kosorok, Michael Hudgens
Lisa LaVange, Danyu Lin, Anastasia Ivanova, and Donglin Zeng, are globally recognized leaders in clinical study design, the complexity of clincal trials and their regulatory issues, adaptive clinical trials and methodologies to fast-track potential COVID19 therapeutics into the clinical trials pathways in the shortest amount of time available.
Keywords: clinical trials
Researchers: Lisa LaVange, Donglin Zeng, Danyu Lin, Anastasia Ivanova
Subhashini Sellers and William Fischer are both Assistant Professors in the Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine. Using their expertise in respiratory pathogens, Sellers and Fischer are both working with Dirk Dittmer in testing of COVID-19 samples. The team has worked together previously and has published on respiratory viral burden in persons with HIV, a study which demonstrated the sensitivity of next-generation sequencing for testing of all viruses including coronavirus. Fischer was also involved in the Ebola crisis in 2014–2016, and contributed to an article with David Wohl in the New England Journal of Medicine about disparities in patient care of Ebola virus disease.
Researchers: William Fischer, Subhashini Sellers, Dirk Dittmer, David Wohl
David Wohl, Professor of Medicine, and Natalie Bowman, Assistant Professor of Medicine, are using their extensive knowledge of viral infections, epidemiology, and critical care medicine to track COVID-19 patients in the hospital and local community to help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection as much as possible. David Wohl is also leading the UNC Respiratory Diagnostic units.
Researchers: Natalie Bowman, David Wohl
Several of our School of Medicine centers are also involved in COVID-19 work. These include the HIV Cure Center and the Marsico Lung Institute. The HIV Cure Center is focused on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Numerous investigators are using their virology backgrounds and technical expertise to help accelerate research and testing of COVID-19 samples. For example, David Margolis, Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, Epidemiology and Director of the HIV Cure Center is planning clinical trials for COVID-19 patient and along with Edward Browne, Assistant Professor of Medicine, will be involved in assaying clinical samples in emerging human studies of COVID-19.
Researchers within the Marsico Lung Institute / UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center are dedicated to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis and lung disease, and members have wide-ranging skills and interest from ion transport physiology to mucus secretion, and gene-targeted murine models. Investigators in this institute are working as a team to map the entry sites for SARS-CoV-2 in the respiratory tract and explore the risk / benefit aspects of drugs commonly used to treat respiratory disease for COVID-19. Furthermore, a number of investigators are embarking on preclinical studies to identify biomarkers that will predict the trajectory of COVID-19 lung disease and novel therapeutic strategies to treat patients. These studies involve Richard Boucher, Director of the Marsico Lung Institute and the James C. Moeser Eminent Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Scott Randell, Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Wanda O’Neal, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Molecular Biology Core Laboratory, Matt Wolfgang, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Ray Pickles, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Brian Button, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics with joint appointment in the Departments of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, Charles Esther, Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, AlessanLivraghi-Butrico, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Mehmet Kesimer, Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Claire Doerschuk, Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rob Hagan, Clinical Instructor in the Department of Medicine, Jason Mock, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Christine Vigeland, Clinical Instructor in the Department of Medicine.
All these faculty are members of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases which fosters collaborative research to solve global health problems, reduce the burden of disease, and cultivate the next generation of global health leaders. Together these teams are working to understand SARS-CoV-2 and help find a cure to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, NC TraCS has been involved in supporting several COVID-19 clinical research projects in the SOM, including prophylactic trials on healthcare workers who are working with patients on the frontline of the epidemic. NC TraCS is also working with other CTSAs across the country to develop a database for COVID-19 patients.
Researchers: Wanda O’Neal, Scott Randell, Rob Hagan, Richard Boucher, Ray Pickles, Mehmet Kesimer, Matthew Wolfgang, Jason Mock, Edward Browne, David Margolis, Claire Doerschuk, Christine Vigeland, Charles Esther, Brian Button, Alessandra Livraghi-Butrico
Jacqueline Halladay is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Chair for Research at UNC Health Sciences at the Mountain-Area Heath Education Center (MAHEC) where she, along with Brian Cass at the UNC Sheps Center are engaged in a rapid needs assessment compiling lists of clinics providing primary care services, including health departments, FQHC’s, free clinics, etc. They leverage data collectors (medical students, research personnel from MAHEC and UNC, others to offer immediate assistance using established workforce of practice coaches, provide rapid linkages to resources — how to set up telehealth, how to get loans to keep operations going, how to follow CDC guidance, etc. — coupled with the Sheps Center team to drive data informed decisions about healthcare supply and demand.
Keywords: primary care, preparedness, nc healthcare coalition, nc dhhs, nc ahec, mahec, health care infrastructure, free clinics, emergency preparedness
Researchers: Jacqueline Halladay, Brian Cass
Tania Jenkins, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, is developing a module specifically related to COVID-19 as part of her larger ethnographic study on physician burnout. She is also collaborating with scholars at the Gillings School of Global Public Health to explore research related to primary care provider burnout during the pandemic.
Keywords: professional structures, physician burnout
Researchers: Tania Jenkins
Research Studying the Effects of the Pandemic
Dasgupta Nabarun, is a Senior Research Scientist at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, a CDC-supported research entity, where he innovates in exploring assessments of the effects of social distancing, and, exploring relationships between social media and public statements from the federal government.
Keywords: social epidemiology, overdose, opioids, mapping
Researchers: Dasgupta Nabarun
Steve Marshall, Director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC, a CDC-supported research entity) and Professor of Epidemiology, Beth Moracco UNC IPRC Associate Director and Associate Professor of Health Behavior, and Rebecca Macy, L. R. Preyer Distinguished Professor of Social Work began work on COVID19 related effects of social distancing and social stress on domestic violence (violence between intimate partners) particularly in light of local, state, and potentially national ‘stay-at-home’ orders.
Keywords: intimate partner violence, domestic violence
Researchers: Steve Marshall, Rebecca Macy, Beth Moracco
UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) is launching a COVID-19 child and adolescent well-being research survey to be added as a research tool on any studies conducted by FPG researchers. Once the survey has been developed and IRB-approved, FPG will invite investigators to add the questions to ongoing research projects to collect data from a large sample for future research on the impacts of COVID-19 on children and adolescents.
Allison Aiello, Professor and Social Epidemiology Program Leader in the UNC Department of Epidemiology, studies Healthcare worker exposure and social exposure to COVID19 with collaboratators in the School of Medicine. Aiello also brings significant expertise to infectious disease research through the lens of non-pharmaceutical interventions, details of social networks/infectious disease transmission (contact tracing) and supporting and interpreting WHO guidance
Keywords: projections and modeling, leadership and training, healthcare sector workforce, behavior and communities
Researchers: Allison Aiello
Alice Ammerman, Director, Center for Health Promotion And Disease Prevention, And Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor, Department Of Nutrition studies real time food availability and its impact in communities across the state.
Keywords: vulnerable populations, behavior and communities
Researchers: Alice Ammerman
Molly DeMarco is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and is focusing her work on COVID-19 and living wage. DeMarco is in the middle of a study of a living wage ordinance with 1000 low-wage workers and is exploring participant-informed questions about this cohort to be conducted over the summer of 2020.
Keywords: vulnerable populations, behavior and communities
Researchers: Molly DeMarco
Leah Devlin, Professor of Health Policy and Management, Bill Gentry, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management, Ed Fisher, Professor in the Deptarmnt of Health Behavior, and Gene Matthews who directs the Network for Public Health Law, SE Region, and Claudia Fernandez, Associate Professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, all explore institutional and governmental leadership and training during public health emergencies, including UNC CH campus response to its public health obligations.
Keywords: leadership and training, behavior and communities
Researchers: Leah Devlin, Gene Matthews, Ed Fisher, Bill Gentry
Aunchalee Palmquist, Assistant Professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health studies infant and young child feeding in emergencies and other situations of extreme adversity. Palmquist is spearheading efforts to strengthen implementation of recommended infant feeding practices and COVID-19 through the new United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) COVID-19 Infant & Young Child Feeding Constellation.
Researchers: Aunchalee Palmquist
Matthew Andrews, Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of History, Jonathan Weiler, Teaching Professor in the Curriculum in Global Studies, and Geneva Collins, Director of Communications in the College for Arts & Sciences, are launching COVID Conversations: Society, Politics and Economics amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, https://covidconversations.unc.edu/, a four-part podcast series designed to help the public make sense of the extraordinary social measures and economic impacts unfolding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring sought-after expert researchers on the faculty of UNC-Chapel Hill, the podcast focuses on immediate concerns driving current headlines.
Keywords: social impact
Researchers: Matthew Andrews, Jonathan Weiler, Geneva Collins
Patricia Sawin, Associate Professor in American Studies, Folklore, and Anthropology, is tracking information circulated on social media about COVID-19 and social distancing, with a project titled Pandemic Rumors: What do they teach? Which should we trust? Rumors, whether accurate or not, can serve as a valuable index to the issues about which people are particularly anxious. She is investigating how people can train themselves to distinguish reliable from unreliable information.
Keywords: public health communications
Researchers: Patricia Sawin
Fraga Rizo, Assistant Professor, and Rebecca J. Macy, L. Richardson Preyer Distinguished Chair for Strengthening Families in the School of Social Work, are interested in understanding how the effect of public health COVID-19 mitigation efforts designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 would impact known risk factors for intimate partner violence (e.g., economic stress, relationship tension and conflict, social isolation and lack of social support). The team has extensive experience conducting research focused on: (a) examining the experiences and needs of survivors; (b) enhancing intimate partner violence service delivery; and (c) developing and evaluation intimate partner violence prevention and intervention efforts.
Keywords: intimate partner violence, family violence
Researchers: Rebecca Macy, Fraga Rizo
Sheryl Zimmerman, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham Distinguished Professor, and the Program on Aging, Disability, and Long-Term Care co-director, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research leads a team with expertise in care and outcomes of older adults in long-term care (nursing homes and assisted living), and a large network of sites and providers with which to collaborate.
Keywords: older adults, nursing homes, assisted living
Researchers: Sheryl Zimmerman
Barbara Frederickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, is studying mental health effects of social distancing as a function of various forms of technology-mediated social interactions (synchronous forms, like Zoom, versus asynchronous forms, like social media). Data collection is underway via Amazon mTurk both nationwide, with oversampling focused in northern CA and NC. A second study will follow up on a large sample (N > 400) of local participants from a 35-day diary study (randomized controlled trial), some of whom were randomized to increase the quality and quantity of positive social connection. The researchers will test whether
micro-intervention helped to buffer study participants from the adverse mental health effects of social distancing. A third study explores intellectual humility of students enrolled in Introduction to Philosophy, The study will test whether intellectual humility predicts accurate discernment between COVID-19 facts and myths, and whether it predicts proactive health behaviors.
Keywords: mental health and wellbeing
Researchers: Barbara Frederickson
Eva Telzer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, is embarking on a project assessing adolescents’ emotions, experiences, and activities every day for 28 days. The data obtained from these daily measures will provide insight into how living through a global pandemic may affect adolescent health and well-being.
Keywords: mental health and wellbeing
Researchers: Eva Telzer
Kurt Gray, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, has published work on how social psychological research can help predict people’s behavior during a pandemic, with the title of
Measuring Two Distinct Psychological Threats of COVID-19 and their Unique Impacts on Wellbeing and Adherence to Public Health Behaviors
Keywords: public health compliance
Researchers: Kurt Gray
Ted Mouw, Professor in the Department of Sociology, is applying to the Census to expand his current project using restricted access American Community Survey data in the Census data center. The goal would be to link the Census microdata up to real-time spatial data on the geographic spread of the case counts to understand demographic risk and resiliency.
Keywords: demographic risk
Researchers: Ted Mouw
Cassandra R. Davis, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy, and team are investigating the impact of COVID-19 on college persistence amongst First-Generation College Students (FGCS) at multiple college campuses. Research suggests that FGCS tend to come from low-income households and arrive at college with fewer resources as compared to non-FGCS. The team will use qualitative methods to assess this occurrence and provide administrators with data on the ways to best support vulnerable populations through the COVID-19 pandemic event.
Researchers: Cassandra R. Davis
Alexandrea Ravenelle, Assistant Professor in Department of Sociology, is currently conducting a mixed methods panel study utilizing remote interviews and demographic surveys with more than 100 precarious and gig workers in New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Part I of the study, conducted from April through July 2020, will focus on the daily impact of the virus on essential gig workers, such as delivery staff and errand runners. The second and third phases, which will occur in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2022, will examine the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers.
Keywords: economic resilience
Researchers: Alexandrea Ravenelle
Howard Aldrich, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology, is studying how entrepreneurship in impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: economic resilience
Researchers: Howard Aldrich
Jon Williams, Associate Professor in Department of Economics, is working with broadband providers to figure out how to accommodate the changing internet traffic flows due to far reaching public health restrictions. A forthcoming paper explores the effects of tele-educ/health/work and the role of broadband providers in making it all work.
Keywords: broadband capacity and tele-work
Researchers: Jon Williams
Todd M. Jensen, Research Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, promotes family and youth well-being, particularly in the face of change, stress, and adversity. His research also focuses on the prevention of family violence, with an emphasis on military-connected families.
Keywords: youth well-being, military families, family well-being, family violence
Researchers: Todd M. Jensen
Melissa Lippold, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, is studying how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting family relationships and its subsequent effect on mental health, physical health, and substance use. Prof. Lippold also is also interested in understanding how families are adapting to and managing increased stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, how stress may be transmitted between family members, and effects of pandemic-related stress on substance use and mental/physical health
Keywords: substance use, stress, parenting, family relationships, adolescence
Researchers: Melissa Lippold
Anusha Chari, Professor in the Department of Economics, has shown that unanticipated changes in predicted infections during the SARS and COVID-19 pandemics forecast aggregate equity market returns. Dr. Chari’s team model cumulative infections as either exponential or logistic, and re-estimate the parameters of these models each day of the outbreak using information reported up to that day. For each trading day they compute the change in predicted infections using day t − 1 versus day t − 2 information. Regression results imply that a doubling of such predictions is associated with a 4 to 11 percent decline in aggregate market value. This result implies a decline in returns’ volatility as the trajectory of the pandemic becomes clearer.
Keywords: economic resilience
Researchers: Anusha Chari
Public Policy and Public Health-Related Projects
Rebecca Kreitzer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy, is working with a team of researchers from several universities to test public support for rationing health care and education by disability and age and to examine the impact of pandemic public policy decisions on the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Keywords: public policy
Researchers: Rebecca Kreitzer
Eric Ghysels, Bernstein Distinguished Professor in the Department of Economics and Professor of Finance at the UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, and his collaborators, including doctoral candidate Fotis Grigoris, are incorporating COVID-19 factors into models they are developing for real-time forecasts of state and local budgets featuring mixed-frequency data. The COVID-19 elements will cover scenarios of economic downturns and their impact on state budgets for 2020.
Keywords: public finance, economic shocks, economic recovery, economic contraction, budget modelling, budget forecasting
Researchers: Fotis Grigoris, Eric Ghysels
Angela Stuesse, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, is documenting how COVID-19 impacts workers in meat processing industries and the availability of support and healthcare for immigrant laborers as part of ongoing research into Latin American migrants in the US South and their impact on regional identities, racial hierarchies, and industrial and labor relations.
Keywords: immigrant labor, agriculture
Researchers: Angela Stuesse
Benjamin Meier, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Policy works at the intersection of international law, public policy and global health, examining human rights frameworks for global health policy. Advancing legal frameworks for public health, he is working closely as a consultant to international organizations, national governments and nongovernmental organizations in the COVID-19 response.
Keywords: public, human rights, global public health, biomedical ethics
Researchers: Benjamin Meier
Research on Public Health Pandemic Responses and Strategies
Marc Hetherington, Dawson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science, Tim Ryan, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Graeme Robertson, Professor of Political Science, are currently working with the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Hussman School of Journalism and Media, School of Medicine, and NC Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support efforts to achieve broad public compliance with voluntary restrictions on personal actions. The work seeks to identify characteristics of citizens who are resistant to compliance behaviors like social distancing and mask-wearing, the leaders and professions whom they admire and esteem, and their media consumption habits. The goal of the work is to develop effective communication strategies for HHS to encourage compliance and protect the health of those reluctant to heed calls for measures such as social distancing.
Keywords: social distancing, public health compliance
Researchers: Tim Ryan, Marc Hetherington, Graeme Robertson
Dana Rice, Assistant Professor in the Public Health Leadership Program, is examining the response to the COVID-19 pandemic on people detained in rural and urban North Carolina prisons.
Keywords: public policy
Researchers: Dana Rice
Elizabeth Olson, Professor in the Department of Geography, is researching the impact social distancing has on youths with responsibility for providing care, supervision and support to ill or disabled family members.
Keywords: social distancing, family care-giving
Researchers: Elizabeth Olson
Carissa Byrne Hessick, Ransdell Distinguished Professor at the UNC School of Law, is researching the enforcement of criminal laws in response to the coronavirus outbreak and examining new Department of Justice coronavirus-related law enforcement priorities.
Keywords: criminal law, crime
Researchers: Carissa Byrne Hessick
Donald T. Hornstein, Brooks Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law, is examining and advising on the regulatory law of emergency, quarantine and vaccination in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as issues of insurance coverage and regulation related to the coronavirus.
Keywords: insurance, government emergency powers
Researchers: Donald T. Hornstein
Leigh Osofsky, Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law, is researching the challenge posed by the inability of the free market to protect frontline workers during a pandemic and the legal need for government subsidies.
Keywords: worker pay, subsidies
Researchers: Leigh Osofsky
Richard Saver, Allen Distinguished Professor at the UNC School of Law and a Professor in the Department of Social Medicine, is currently researching the tension between the "elusive" legal duties community physicians owe to safeguard public health and the duties they owe to their individual patients, which can lead to evading compliance with public health laws or ignoring the public health considerations of treatment decisions. Prof. Saver’s scholarship also focuses on laws governing isolation, quarantine, compelled medical treatment, infectious disease reporting, vaccination, governmental health communication campaigns, and related public health activities.
Keywords: public health law, physician duty, disease reporting
Researchers: Richard Saver
Rick Su, Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law, is evaluating state and local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing and exclusion orders and state-federal coordination in disaster relief.
Keywords: state government, social distancing, local government, federalism
Researchers: Rick Su
Deborah M. Weissman, Ivey Distinguished Professor at the UNC School of Law and a member of NC’s Commission on Domestic Violence, is engaged in governmental efforts in the US and abroad to address domestic violence intervention in the context of the global pandemic. These include development of best practices related to crisis management services and their remote delivery through virtual platforms.
Keywords: domestic violence, crisis management
Researchers: Deborah M. Weissman
Klara Peter, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, is examing the role of government trust in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in European countries. Her project will take place over the summer using data from the European Social Survey linked to regional measures of the spread of the virus. She is also using U.S. county-level data to understand how initial conditions and policies influence spread of the virus and its mortality outcomes at various pandemic stages, and she is examining the degree to which mitigation strategies in various countries affect individual risk perceptions and economic and social behaviors.
Keywords: health disparities, disease burden
Researchers: Klara Peter
Paul Delamater, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Michigan to create a public-facing map/website of COVID-19 risk. Many residents of Michigan are unaware of their localized risk and have been failing to heed stay home orders. The research team seeks to
show residents their risk through a spatial/epidemiological model that can provide highly local risk estimates, while at the same time protecting the privacy of persons who have contracted COVID-19. Dr. Delamater is developing the spatial mapping units and will help develop the algorithm to estimate risk. He is also assisting a group working to predict hospital beds and ICU beds needed in Michigan in upcoming weeks.
Keywords: social distancing, public awareness, predictive modeling
Researchers: Paul Delamater
Keely Muscatell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, is exploring people’s understanding of their bodily states and how that contributes to their emotional states during a pandemic when attention to bodily cues is heightened. Her work has a particular focus on individuals of lower socioeconomic background. Her team is also exploring how mental health practitioners and public health communicators can design effective messages to encourage social distancing and other practices to control the spread of COVID-19.
Keywords: social distancing
Researchers: Keely Muscatell
Kia Caldwell, Professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, is examining how the healthcare systems of the United States and Brazil have responded to the pandemic and the challenges they face offering robust healthcare to African-American and Afro-Brazilian communities. This work includes a focus on the Affordable Care Act and Brazil’s universal healthcare system (SUS). Dr. Caldwell is also studying how racial/ethnic health disparities and social determinants of health in US and Brazilian communities affect the pandemic’s impact in each country.
Keywords: health disparities, disease burden
Researchers: Kia Caldwell
Lydia Boyd, Associate Professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, is examining how deep experience gained by African public health workers and officials managing high-profile viral outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda and localized cholera outbreaks on the continent is affecting Africa’s response to the pandemic.
Keywords: global public health
Researchers: Lydia Boyd
Eunice Sahle, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, is examining the effects and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various communities in the African nations of Malawi, Kenya and South Africa. UNC Teaching Fellow Marie A. Garlock and Dr. Sahle are also studying how coal ash-affected communities in the US are adapting mutual aid networks – a constitutive part of the everyday practices of African Americans in the rural South to address COVID-19.
Keywords: environmental justice, community response
Researchers: Marie A. Garlock, Eunice Sahle
Samba Camara and Mohamed Mwamzandi, Teaching Assistant Professors in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, are using online questionnaires and other digital research methods to examine how Muslims in North Carolina’s Triangle area, in Senegal, and in Kenya have adjusted religious behavior to accommodate urgent COVID-19 public health policies without compromising their faith.
Keywords: social impact
Researchers: Samba Camara, Mohamed Mwamzandi
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, Professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, is examining the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s response to COVID-19, with emphasis on how a fragile African state with limited resources deals with a major health crisis and the lessons it offers for the future.
Keywords: social resilience, public policy
Researchers: Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
David Pier, Associate Professor in the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies, is examining use of contemporary music as a tool to encourage awareness of COVID-19 and public health measures such as hand-washing, and its relationship to politics in Uganda.
Keywords: public health compliance, health communication
Researchers: David Pier
Kari North, Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, is leveraging an existing epidemiology Latino cohort to better understand how minority populations and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Keywords: health disparities
Researchers: Kari North
Mark Holmes, Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management; Kim Powers, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology; and other researches from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Sheps Center for Health Services Research are part of an independent, informal collaborative of data scientists, health services and policy researchers, and epidemiologists who are modeling the impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina. Their work has been used to advise state policymakers on the potential impact of various policies aimed at mitigating the virus’s impact on the state and its residents. For example, their modeling work has informed decisions on social distancing policies and provided a framework for reopening the state. Their work has been featured in multiple local, state and national media outlets.