CSU researchers pivot, pursue, pioneer COVID-19 projects

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado State University has received more than $16 million in funding for COVID-19 research projects. The majority of that funding, around 65%, has come from federal sources, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research.

CSU scientists are currently working on 44 different projects to address the pandemic, including:

Hundreds of masks from around the world tested

Christian L’Orange, research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CSU, said that his team has tested more than 100 varieties of masks for the general public and 146 for Colorado’s COVID-19 state task force.

The team has also tested 30 types of cloth masks, and has up to 80 other cloth masks in the queue. The testing results are available online.

Consequences of a global pandemic analyzed

As a Yale University postdoctoral researcher, economist Jude Bayham studied the potential consequences of a global pandemic that could shutter schools, close businesses and strain hospitals.

Earlier this year, as the world grappled with the coronavirus, the CSU agricultural economist and a multi-institutional team turned those prescient modeling exercises into real insights for policymakers.

The researchers created an interactive dashboard for drilling down statistics on child care needs by state, city and industry sector. Bayham and Professor Eli Fenichel from Yale also created another dashboard for viewing COVID-19 complication risk factors in the workforce.

“We’re repurposing models we had done a while back that frankly at the time, people didn’t really care about,” said Bayham, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “It’s an ‘I told you so’ moment. I’m not happy about it. It’s unfortunate.”

Vaccine projects advanced

At CSU, four vaccine candidates are progressing through pre-clinical testing and one is on track for Phase I clinical trials.

Ray Goodrich, executive director of the Infectious Disease Research Center, said that his team is making good progress on the SolaVAX vaccine candidate. CSU recently received $3.1 million from the National Institutes of Health to support development of SolaVAX.

Professor Mary Jackson and Dr. Gregg Dean, professor and head of CSU’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, are leading two additional vaccine candidate research projects, which have moved into the pre-clinical study phase.

Beyond vaccine research, Dean said faculty, staff and students across the department have pivoted to address COVID-19 in a tangible way.

“We are testing thousands of individuals across campus and in our community each week,” he said. “We are testing wastewater as an early warning system. Drugs have been screened and are advancing in clinical trials. New technology has been developed for rapid testing and at-home testing. Across all of this, we are working with CSU, our community, state and federal government and corporate partners. These efforts, among others in our department, are having a direct impact on the lives of individuals today and the breadth of that impact will continue to grow.”

If you missed any of these research stories or others, visit Life in the Time of Corona, which showcases the work of CSU researchers’ efforts to create solutions and keep people safer during the pandemic.