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Office of Research backs new scientific study into COVID-19 pandemic

Posted: April 16, 2020

Originally posted by Ohio State News on April 15, 2020.

The Ohio State University has launched a funding program for a series of research projects to rapidly address critical health and community problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six projects have been awarded a total of $263,718 of COVID-19 Seed Funding from the Office of Research. The projects involve research teams from colleges and departments across the university and are expected to be the first round of ongoing research into the pandemic.

Richard Gumina, associate professor of internal medicine, is the lead principal investigator for one of the projects. The study will obtain blood samples from SARS-C0V-2 positive patients with and without cardiovascular manifestations of COVID-19. About 100 patients will have their blood analyzed for markers to understand why some people have cardiac involvement while others do not.

“We hope we can detect changes in either cell profiling or epigenetics that might play a role in identifying those who are at risk for cardiac involvement, and develop testing to identify those patients early,” Gumina said. “And then also to be able to understand the pathology that occurs during infection so that we might develop novel therapeutic approaches to treat patients before they get too sick.”

The seed funding is not only targeting research into the virus itself, but also social science investigations that examine everything from crisis communications during the pandemic to the impact on workers at all levels of the U.S. economy.

“Ohio State, with its multidisciplinary approach, is uniquely positioned to provide innovative solutions to combat the impacts of this global pandemic, and we want to do everything possible to support our outstanding researchers in these efforts,” said Morley O. Stone, senior vice president for research. “With these seed grants, we will quickly advance our understanding of COVID-19 and its impacts to help us better address the pandemic we’re facing around the world.”

Gumina said the research funding and a fast-tracked application and approval process is critical as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. He credits the Office of Research for acting swiftly and laying the groundwork for future scientific discovery.

“It’s such a time-sensitive issue. The usual mechanisms that we would normally go through for funding for these types of ideas are just too slow to be able to meet the needs here,” he said. “I think the foresight to provide this seed funding will enable us to secure these needed samples for discovery research. Once the samples are obtained, there will be many more studies that will benefit down the road.”

In addition to the project Gumina is helping to develop, the Office of Research supported the following projects:

  • Michael Neblo, director of the university’s Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability (IDEA), will examine ways to improve health behaviors by developing guidelines to support communication between elected officials and the public during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Dmitri Kudryashov, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and his team will study the role of defensins, potent antibiotics made within the body that play an important role against invading microbes, and whether they can block virus entry into human cells.
  • Bridget Freisthler, associate dean of research in the College of Social Work, and Elisabeth Root, associate professor in the Department of Geography, will explore the COVID-19 crisis in the context of stress, social support concerns and any geographic factors associated with punitive parenting practices, including physical punishment.
  • Irina Artsimovitch, professor in the Department of Microbiology, and her study team will analyze the molecular mechanism of RNA synthesis of the novel coronavirus, increasing understanding of the building blocks of COVID-19 disease to help scientists design drug targets and vaccines.
  • Bruce Weinberg, professor in the Department of Economics, and a team of researchers will estimate the economic effects of COVID‐19 and the policy responses to it. The research will examine how those policy responses affect different types of workers.
Chris Booker
Ohio State News
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