A look at COVID-19 research and activity across U-M


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the University of Michigan works on many levels, but it also has galvanized activity across the university as a broad range of academic, research and administrative units apply their expertise to this worldwide crisis.

These synopses offer a glimpse into the variety of activity underway. Go online to follow the links at the end of each story to learn more.

ICPSR launches new repository for COVID-19 data

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research has created a new archive for data examining the social, behavioral, public health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus global pandemic.

The COVID-19 Data Repository is a free, self-publishing option for any researcher or journalist who wants to share data related to COVID-19. The data will be available to any interested user for secondary analysis.

The project is being led by ICPSR Director Margaret Levenstein, who said the repository will capture data to help researchers and journalists understand and respond to the pandemic.

Read more about the repository.

— Dory Knight-Ingram, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

U-M advances antibody test development in COVID-19 fight

Scientists at U-M are advancing new antibody tests to identify people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The tests, being validated now, could accelerate selection of patient plasma for use in treating new COVID-19 infections.

Antibody tests, also called serological tests, search blood serum for evidence that an individual has been infected with a virus. If a person is infected by a virus, their immune system produces specialized antibody proteins that are uniquely equipped to fight off that specific virus — in this case, the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

When the serum from a person who was infected with COVID-19 is applied to a small portion or fragment of viral protein immobilized on a solid surface, the serological test will reveal these specialized antibodies.

If accurate and widely available, COVID-19 antibody tests could not only aid in selecting serum for patient treatments, but also help determine the true rate of infection and measure the spread of the virus and disease.

Read more about the antibody test development.

Read a Q&A on Operation Warp Speed.

— Emily Kagey, Life Sciences Institute

U-M survey paints grim economic picture for Detroiters

About half of Detroiters say they are more likely than not to run out of money in the next three months due to the COVID-19 crisis, and one in five say they definitely will — assuming the economic shutdown continues for that long without families receiving additional support.

That’s according to new results from a rapid-response COVID-19 survey from U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, which has polled Detroiters about their changing city since 2016.

The COVID-19 wave of the representative survey was open from March 31 through April 9, during which time the city of Detroit’s total COVID-19 tally reached more than 6,000 confirmed cases and 345 coronavirus-related deaths.

Read more about the survey.

— Lauren Slagter, Poverty Solutions

COVID-19 shocks food supply chain, spurs creativity and search for resiliency

The global food supply chain has been rocked by the pandemic, leading to disruptions and shortages and adding to the problem of waste. There’s also the human cost, such as the economic harm to the laborers whose jobs or hours are cut and the growing problem of food insecurity for millions.

Still, there are signs of hope, such as the success of smaller grocers in maintaining supply lines with local sources.

Ravi Anupindi is a Stephen M. Ross School of Business professor and founding faculty director of the Center for Value Chain Innovation. His interests include sustainability and food systems.

Anupindi discusses the many challenges — and some opportunities — for the players in the food supply chain as it deals with the fallout from COVID-19.

Read a Q&A with Ravi Anupindi.

— Jeff Karoub, Michigan News

Game theory project explores maximizing COVID-safe behavior

Shedding light on how officials at different levels of government can work together to maximize COVID-safe behavior is a new goal of a multiscale game theory project funded with $6.5 million from the Department of Defense.

Mingyan Liu, leader of the project and the Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, presented her team’s work at a recent “Call to Arms” virtual conference, held by the National Science Foundation’s Networking Technology Systems group.

When human behavior is competitive, we don’t use resources in the way that is most efficient for the community — as seen in behaviors like mask, sanitizer and toilet paper hoarding.

But most decisions about how to behave aren’t entirely individualistic. People make them as part of a community. They are swayed both by leadership — and the incentives and disincentives that they can offer — as well as altruism.

Read more about the project.

— Katherine McAlpine, College of Engineering

Amid COVID-19 chaos, CoE Student Affairs connects with every engineering student

Hundreds of U-M engineering students have been helped by the Office of Student Affairs at the College of Engineering in the past two months. Since the arrival of COVID-19, Student Affairs staff and other college employees who have volunteered to help have contacted each of the roughly 11,000 students in the engineering community. They were able to provide some form of assistance to 700 of them.

“We’ve reached out to understand what we can do as a college to help,” said Jeanne Murabito, executive director of the Office of Student Affairs. To make that happen, the college put out a call for staff members currently working from home with time in their schedules to pitch in.

A team of 69 volunteers stepped up to help craft individual emails, and they are tasked with directing the students to the proper resource.

Read more about this effort.

— James Lynch, Michigan Engineering

Michigan Medicine launches first multi-site COVID-19 clinical trial on new registry

The university was selected to participate in the first study to use the new national HERO registry. Led locally by Marisa Miceli and Peter Higgins, this study focuses on how effective hydroxychloroquine may be in protecting health care providers.

“The multisite study will be large enough to definitively address questions such as ‘Can HCQ prevent COVID infections in Health Care Providers (HCP)?’ or ‘Can HCQ reduce the severity of COVID infections in HCP?’” said David Williams, professor of anesthesiology and faculty lead of the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research’s new Network-Based Research Unit.

In supporting this first study, MICHR is facilitating rapid regulatory approval, contracting, and budgets, with the help of the Ambulatory and Chronic Disease Clinical Trial Support Unit.

Read more about the clinical trial.

— Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research


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