The VCU Medical Center campus as viewed from the air.
A group of 20 VCU faculty members received awards to quickly pivot or expand their work to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

First recipients of COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity grants announced

“The creativity, resourcefulness and desire to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated in these projects … is impressive.”

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Twenty Virginia Commonwealth University faculty members received internal awards to quickly pivot or expand their work to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health system and the community.

Nearly 70 investigators applied for support through the VCU COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

The initial support neared $200,000 in funding, but in light of the large volume of high-quality project proposals submitted, the overall funding was increased to $300,000.

"When the funding opportunity was announced on April 3, VCU researchers across both campuses were ready to hit the ground running to address COVID-19," said F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., director of the Wright Center and associate vice president for clinical research. “It was particularly important to the Wright Center to help fund the exciting biomedical projects included in these applications."

“This opportunity garnered many outstanding proposals that exceeded our expectations,” said P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation. “The creativity, resourcefulness and desire to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated in these projects spanning various disciplines is impressive and hopefully will be impactful. In addition to the 20 projects selected, we are reviewing many other exciting COVID-19 proposals and look forward to announcing further grant recipients in the coming weeks.”

The first group of funding recipients are:

  • Somaya Albhaisi, MBBCh, School of Medicine, “Virginia Commonwealth University Registry of SARS-CoV-2”
  • Adam Blandin, Ph.D., School of Business, “Real Time Labor Market Estimates During the 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak”
  • Gregory Buck, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Epidemiology and Evolution of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and the Human Microbiome”
  • Daniel Conway, Ph.D., College of Engineering, “Characterizing the Importance of Nuclear-cytoskeletal Transport in SARS-CoV-2 Viral Pathogenicity”
  • Dwayne Ray Cormier, Ph.D., School of Education, “Exploring PreK-12 Public School Systems' Pandemic Preparedness During COVID-19 School Closures”
  • Paul Dent, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Developing Chaperone Inhibitors as Anti-viral Therapeutics”
  • Danielle Dick, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences, “Acute Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on VCU Students”
  • Elsie Harper-Anderson, Ph.D., Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of COVID-19 and the C.A.R.E.S. Act on African American Workers and Businesses in Virginia”
  • Kathryn Howell, Ph.D., Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, “Data for Prevention of Eviction and Proactive Engagement with Tenants and Landlords”
  • Rebecca Martin, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Extreme Droplet Digital PCR for Improved SARS-CoV-2 Virus Detection and Absolute Quantification”
  • Michael McVoy, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Development of Broad Spectrum Antivirals Targeting Virus-GAG interactions”
  • Benjamin Nicholson, M.D., School of Medicine, “VCU COVID-19 Emergency Ventilator: An Automatic Bag Valve Ventilator with Optional Positive End Expiratory Pressure”
  • Michael Peters, Ph.D., College of Engineering, “In-Vitro Testing of a Small Helical Peptide Binder (ACE2 Decoy Peptide) to SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein: A Fight Fire with Fire Approach”
  • Scott Ramsey, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Rapid Identification of COVID-19 Antiviral Drugs Targeting a Novel Viral Ion Channel Protein”
  • Thomas Roper, Ph.D., College of Engineering, “Proposal for In-vitro Testing of VCU Proprietary Antivirals Against Coronaviruses”
  • Lawrence Schwartz, M.D., School of Medicine, “Human Mast Cell Tryptase Is a Therapeutic Target in COVID-19 Caused by SARS-CoV-2”
  • Nicholas Thomson, Ph.D., School of Medicine, “Responding to Intimate Partner Violence During the COVID-19 Outbreak”
  • Wei-Ning Wang, Ph.D., College of Engineering, “Development of an Antiviral Face Mask to Capture and Inactivate Novel Coronavirus”
  • Yaoying Xu, Ph.D., School of Education, “Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on International Students from China at VCU”
  • Guizhi Zhu, Ph.D., School of Pharmacy, “Self-applicable Microneedle Patches of COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine for Mass Vaccination”