The University of South Florida has invested over $680,000 with its latest commitment to funding coronavirus research projects.

The university announced Friday it is investing nearly $350,000 into 14 research projects, focused on detecting and stopping infections, innovations in personal protective equipment and addressing confusion in communities that may be especially vulnerable to the virus.

It’s in addition to almost $340,000 the university invested into a previous 14 research projects in April. The grants are part of USF’s Covid-19 Rapid Response Research Grants program. The Florida High Tech Connect Corridor is donating $100,000 of the total, to specifically fund five of the 14 projects whose technology could become commercialized.

“The shock and devastation of the pandemic has inspired USF researchers to dig deep in thinking in new ways to keep us safer and healthier in the future,” Paul R. Sanberg, USF’s senior vice president for research, innovation & knowledge enterprise, said in a statement. “They are applying the best of their expertise, ability and creativity to this cause, while working in partnership with private companies and public agencies to bring these projects to fruition.”

The university’s research department has continued to operate both in the lab and remotely during the pandemic. The department has also received funding from the National Science Foundation for sanitation technology and to build a digital tool to better understand the virus.

The rapid response grant program is part of an overarching USF Pandemic Response Research Network, an initiative for both university faculty and leadership to respond quickly to the current and potential future pandemics.

According to the university, some of the latest research projects include:

  • Antiviral nasal spray: The spray, which was recently used by USF researchers to treat Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, would treat Covid-19.
  • Wearable diagnostic device: USF and the Dublin-based, wireless wearable sensor company Shimmer plan to have a pilot study of minimally invasive wearable diagnostic devices. The platform measures progression of the virus in asymptomatic people and the technology alerts both the patient and medical staff of failing physiological conditions, before the full symptoms show.
  • Economic recovery markers from satellite imagery: A team from USF, the University of California, Berkeley and Colorado-based global satellite company Maxar Technologies have teamed up to develop a new tool that would provide insight into economic activity and recovery. The project would develop economic trend forecasts based on satellite images taken at regular intervals and augmented with information from other sources such as community mobility data, flight tracker data and railway tracking data.
  • Messaging to at-risk populations: The research team will use a novel physiological methodology to test emotional responses to Covid-19 prevention messages on mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing to recommend language, framing, spokesperson, and image strategies that will best motivate at-risk populations to seek routine health care.
  • Exploring racial disparities: Researchers will extract and study discussions on Covid-19 in the African-American community with the goal of understanding how personal experiences and stigma shape and impact understanding and perceptions of the disease.
  • Mathematics and science teaching and learning: This project will engage Hillsborough County Public School middle school math and science teachers to develop methods and materials on public health issues and students’ ability to serve their communities as Covid-19 public health ambassadors.

Source: USF invests more funds into coronavirus fighting research projects – Tampa Bay Business Journal