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Reducing the Impact of Infectious Diseases by Supporting Trans-Disciplinary Academic Research

COVID-19 Rapid Response

To help mobilize the UVA community to do innovative research to help combat COVID-19, the UVA Global Infectious Diseases Institute (GIDI), in partnership with the Office of the Vice-President for Research, created a Rapid Response funding mechanism. 


  • Martin Wu, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Biology
  • Rathina Kumar Shanmuga Kani, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Biology

Current nucleic acid based tests for active COVID-19 infection require expensive laboratory equipment that are only suited to large, centralized diagnostic laboratories. Using the grant funding, Dr.  Wu’s team will develop a simple, cheap and rapid test based on the PCR-dipstick technology. If successful, this new test can be deployed widely at the community level for rapid decentralized point-of-care diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance.

  • Bethany Teachman, College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Psychology
  • Laura Barnes, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Engineering Systems and Environment

The study designed by Bethany Teachman and Laura Barnes will evaluate whether COVID-19-related anxiety can be reduced using an online intervention program, and what factors predict resilience or worsening mental health over time. They will offer a new version of their MindTrails program to 500 people who are high in anxiety and then track their progress, both over the course of the 5-week intervention, and then for 6 months afterward.

“Without this award, it would not be possible for us to recruit and track these individuals over time, so the grant is central to us learning what factors predict better or worse long-term mental health following COVID-19,” said Dr. Teachman.

  • Rupa Valdez, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Public Health Sciences & Engineering Systems and Environment

Rupa S. Valdez and her team will examine the social, economic, and health-related impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals living with a wide range of chronic health conditions. Dr. Valdez and her team will also explore the changes implemented at the level of the individual, relationship, community, and society that may mitigate negative impacts and sustain positive ones over time.

  • Catherine Bonham, School of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care
  • Alexandra Kadl, School of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care;
  • Lindsay A. Somerville, School of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care

Catherine Bonham and her team will examine the immune response to COVID-19 in patients admitted to the UVA special pathogens ICU.  They will focus on how patients’ immune response to COVID-19  differs from influenza, so that they may better understand the unique challenges that COVID-19  presents.

  • P. Preston Reynolds, School of Medicine, General Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care
  • Peggy Scott, School of Medicine, Cancer Center
  • Frank Dukes, School of Architecture, Institute for Environmental Negotiation
  • This project was awarded Undergraduate Research Award Supplement

The team will study the impact of COVID-19 on rural communities with both a survey and qualitative interviews. Their hypothesis is that the geographical distribution of rural populations slows disease transmission, and that the geographic separation of individuals in rural populations means that these populations do not need to alter their behavior as much as urban populations do in order to achieve social distancing. But also since the wide-spread social distancing policies stress an already fragile rural private and public sector infrastructure (scarce internet access; uneven access to food and clean water) this paradoxically exposes rural populations to greater risks and impacts. 

  • Jundong Li, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science & School of Data Science
  • Daniel Mietchen, School of Data Science
  • This project was awarded Undergraduate Research Award Supplement

In this project, Jundong Li and Daniel Mietchen will explore the range of data-related decisions made during COVID-19 and analyze the flow of information, data, and metadata. Data sharing is now considered a key component of addressing present, future, and even past public health emergencies, from local to global levels. Researchers, research institutions, journals and others have taken steps towards increasing the sharing of data around ongoing COVID-19 and in preparation for future pandemics.

Their team will quantify the effects of data flow modifications to identify parameter sets under which specific modes of sharing or withholding information have the largest effects. For these high-impact parameter sets, they will then assess the current and past availability of corresponding data, metadata, and misinformation, and estimate the effects on outbreak mitigation and preparedness efforts.