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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