UC announces $2M in research grants to support COVID-19 projects

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The UC system announced $2 million in research grants for short-term, high-impact projects focused on health issues related to COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, Monday.

The award, which can be up to $25,000 per recipient, is available immediately, according to a press release. It is meant to be a seed fund to help speed up the research processes. More than 100 people applied for the grant within the first 24 hours of its launch, according to Theresa Maldonado, vice president of the UC Office of the President’s Office of Research and Innovation.

“This funding opportunity will help researchers take their work and deploy it as quickly as possible,” Maldonado said.

In an effort to support the research community’s work in solving COVID-19-related health issues, program officers of the UC Research and Innovation division pulled together the money for the grant from funds for efforts to study other diseases, including AIDS, breast cancer and diabetes.

“Imagine someone has breast cancer and then tests positive for COVID,” Maldonado said. “There is a higher level of complexity in how to treat this person, so it makes sense to use this money to look at the complexity of disease in our vulnerable population.”

The money will go toward research focusing particularly on health issues of vulnerable communities, the complexity of diseases and data. According to Maldonado, potential awardees can be doing research on a variety of ideas, including vaccination, preventative treatment and drug development.

One question about the grant, however, is the feasibility of the research. With the majority of people having to work remotely, there is the question of how much work must be done in the lab. Some researchers are considered essential personnel and five UC medical centers are in full operation, according to Maldonado.

Choosing the recipients will rely on how big of an impact their project can make, as well as how quickly they can accomplish it, given their expertise. The money is meant to push researchers’ work “over the fence,” according to Maldonado.

“The UC is very concerned and wants to make an impact,” Maldonado said. “There’s a lot of positive energy in this system right now; everyone wants to know how to help.”

Contact Gigi Nibbelink at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @giginibbelink.