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NYU Abu Dhabi announces ten research grants designed to combat COVID-19 in the UAE and beyond

Wednesday, July 22, 2020/ Editor -  

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● As part of NYU Abu Dhabi’s far-reaching response to the global pandemic, the University has awarded COVID-19 Facilitator Research Grants to faculty members across a range of disciplines including sciences, engineering, and social sciences.
● The research will focus on projects designed to respond to the challenge of the virus in the UAE and around the world.
● Faculty and researchers are initiating projects aimed at contributing to the global response to COVID-19 and better understanding the impact it has on our world; learn more at COVID-19: A Call to Action.
 
Abu Dhabi – July 22, 2020: NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has announced the award of ten COVID-19 Facilitator Research Grants to faculty across a range of disciplines including sciences, engineering, and social sciences. These grants are designed to support academic research with the potential to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and come as part of the University’s global efforts in combating the pandemic in the UAE and around the world.
 
The ten selected projects focus on a wide range of disciplines; these include medical approaches to COVID-19 detection, diagnostic tools to support screening efforts, understanding of the transmission of COVID-19, policy analysis and the collection of data to support government responses to the crisis and its impact on personal and social health, as well as labor impact and global supply chain, among other research areas.
 
The research projects were reviewed internally by NYUAD Provost Fabio Piano; Senior Vice Provost of Research, Managing Director of the Research Institute and Professor of Biology at NYUAD Sehamuddin Galadari; divisional deans; and other colleagues.
 
Piano said: “A global problem demands a global response. Over the past several months, NYU Abu Dhabi has moved rapidly to deploy its considerable academic and research expertise in the fight against this pandemic. Partnerships and coordination with local entities and institutions are a vital component in supporting broader efforts to address the pandemic and resulting challenges, and we are confident that these research projects designed to respond to the challenge of the virus in the UAE and around the world will pave the way for new insight and new approaches to better understand, address, and manage the impact of COVID-19.”
 
Galadari said: “These research awards announced today are part of a larger collaborative and coordinated national effort to find solutions to the COVID-19 challenges we face. Across the nation, NYU Abu Dhabi and other research communities in higher education institutions have mobilized to tackle the crisis. We hope that these projects, and the various other projects initiated prior to this announcement, will help address how we can heal and be prepared for future pandemics.  It is through sustainable investment in research and development and coordinated collaboration across the nation that we will, as a unified collective, defeat COVID-19.'
 
Engineering 
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Mohammad Qasaimeh is producing a low cost, wearable smart adhesive bandage for the dual detection of the immune response to severe acute respiratory syndrome as well as the presence of the COVID-19 in the finger-prick blood drop.
 
Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Yong-Ak (Rafael) Song is looking to develop a simple and inexpensive microfluidic chip that can extract RNA’s (a nucleic acid present in all living cells) from patient samples and detect the target RNA rapidly.
 
Sciences
Associate Professor of Biology Piergiorgio Percipalle is investigating the mechanism of the Sars-Cov2 replication and how certain viral proteins affect and influence host cell function after viral infection in collaboration with Visiting Professor of Chemistry, affiliated at NYUAD Gennaro Esposito. Percipalle’s group is also developing an antibody-based tool (a ‘nanobody’), that targets specific Sars-Cov2 proteins and can be used for the screening of COVID-19 patients’ samples, and potentially used as a therapeutic agent for COVID-19 treatment.
 
Professor of Computer Science Azza Abouzied is building a tool that can guide policymakers with plans that can curb and control an epidemic while taking into consideration societal and economic costs.
 
Associate Professor of Chemistry Wael Rabeh’s lab aims to express, purify, and biochemically and biophysically characterize the two proteases (enzymes important for the production of new virus particles by releasing functional proteins from the main virus polypeptides) important for the discovery and development of antiviral therapeutics against COVID-19.
 
Assistant Professor of Physics George Shubeita is looking to develop an ultrasensitive and rapid method for the diagnostics of COVID-19 in collaboration with Professor of Biology at NYU, Director of Bioinformatics and Affiliated Faculty at NYUAD, and Co-Director of NYUAD Center for Genomics and Systems Biology Kristin Gunsalus. The method aims to increase detection sensitivity, allowing single viral particles in patient samples to be identified directly without the need for nucleic acid amplification and the associated enzymes which, in the current pandemic, have been limited in supply due to increased global demand. 
 
Social Science
Assistant Professors of Political Science Robert Kubinec and Joan Barceló are in the process of compiling the largest and the most comprehensive hand-coded dataset (called CoronaNet) of government policy announcements made in response to the pandemic. This dataset will allow policy-makers, governments, scientists, and the broader public to examine the effectiveness of policies made at all levels of government, as well as a better understanding of the policy-making processes around the world.
 
Assistant Professors of Social Research and Public Policy Kinga Makovi and Malte Reichelt are working with a network of academics to study the immediate, short, and long-term social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, Germany, and Singapore. The study will address important questions such as how COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus can change our societies and the way we interact with one other. It will also monitor and track changes in social network composition, labor-market outcomes, social norms specifically related to what people believe is a socially beneficial behavior, and measures of cooperation in communities.
 
Global Network Professor of Economics Jean Imbs is developing a metric that predicts both the gravity of economic contagion from COVID-19 and the consequences of sequential reopening after a lockdown. Lockdowns caused by COVID-19 have devastated production, with ripple effects traveling through global value chains (GVC). The metric will help address two important questions - what sectors and countries are most exposed to the disruption of global value chains and what are the key bottlenecks?
 
Professor of Economics Etienne Wasmer plans to investigate the post-epidemic impact of the COVID-19 on the economy. Wasmer and his co-authors examine the extent of job reallocations across sectors, with some shrinking and some expanding, as well as the wage and price adjustment that will follow.

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