MEDx Announces COVID-19 Pilot Project Awardees

As COVID-19 cases started to climb in the U.S. and make their way into the Duke community, researchers from the Duke Schools of Medicine and Engineering began to search for solutions to problems felt or anticipated on local, national and global scales. 

MEDx quickly opened a special call for proposals, accepted on a rolling basis, to enable interdisciplinary research that would aid in the fight against COVID-19. To be considered, projects had to involve research that could only be conducted during the pandemic or support development of technologies that could benefit COVID-19 patients or Duke’s return to campus efforts. MEDx awarded grants to four projects.

Congratulations to the awardees!

SARS-CoV-2 in Bioaerosols and Risk Assessment
Marc Deshusses, Ph.D. | Civil and Environmental Engineering 
Greg Gray, M.D. | Infectious Diseases
This grant follows seed funding from Duke CTSI

The CDC has identified the need to study the relative importance of various modes of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. This team will gather SARS-CoV-2 transport and infection parameters by collecting aerosol samples in hospital rooms of positive COVID-19 patients. With this information, and a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment Model that the team will develop, they aim to inform disease risk assessments and guide clinical and public health interventions.

Ultra-Sensitive Antigen and Serology Rapid Test for COVID-19
Ashutosh Chilkoti, Ph.D. | Biomedical Engineering (BME)
Chris Woods, M.D. | Infectious Diseases 

Population-wide testing is necessary to control the COVID-19 outbreak and prevent future spikes. This team will develop a sensitive COVID-19 point-of-care test to simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2 antigens and antibodies to the virus. MEDx will support Phase 2 of their diagnostic test development project.

Smart Thermal Tracking to Guide Sanitization of Clinical Surfaces
Dan Buckland, M.D., Ph.D. | Surgery and Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
Patrick Codd, M.D. | Neurosurgery 

Every surface in a communal space must now be cleaned to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This team will develop a system of imaging devices and image processing methods to discriminate frequently contacted surfaces that require targeted cleaning. A thermal camera will monitor the surfaces of interest and log an area each time it’s touched. The log will then be immediately available for directed cleaning efforts of high-risk surfaces. The team will test their system in Duke’s Emergency Department.

CovIdentify: Using Wearable Devices and Smartphones to Detect and Monitor COVID-19
Jessilyn Dunn, Ph.D. | BME and Biostatistics & Bioinformatics 
Ryan Shaw, Ph.D. | Nursing
Given in partnership with Duke CTSI

Early detection of infectious diseases can not only save countless lives but also help minimize the negative effects pandemics have on our society. Using data collected from wearable devices and surveys, this team will validate and further refine detection models to move towards an automated and personalized way of detecting inflammation prior to obvious symptoms and predict when symptoms are likely to worsen. They will also evaluate their model’s potential as an initial indicator for infectious diseases to understand how smartphones and wearable devices can be used to prevent transmission.

MEDx is currently reviewing applications for our general pilot projects call for proposal. We received 36 applications covering a wide range of topics and spanning all Pratt School of Engineering departments and a large number of departments and divisions from the School of Medicine. Awards for these projects will be announced soon. 

View previous MEDx grant recipients