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RAPID: Prototype of a medical mask using a novel antimicrobial / antiviral biofilter material: West Virginia University Research Corporation

Gloria Oporto

[email protected]

During the current coronavirus pandemic, there is a shortage of masks that are part of personal protective equipment used by health care workers. This shortage is due to two reasons: (i) supply has been outstripped by unprecedented demand, and (ii) current masks are meant to be used only once and then discarded. Critically, the lack of proper and effective personal protective equipment poses a significant risk to healthcare workers that are treating and caring for COVID19 patients. This RAPID project seeks to remedy these issues by fabricating novel and improved filters using polymers derived from natural sources (agriculture and forestry) that are compostable. These filters would be removable, renewable, and reusable. Furthermore, these filters would incorporate small-sized antimicrobial/antiviral copper particles, which enhance the effectiveness of masks beyond current capabilities. This project will rapidly develop and optimize the fabrication of these filters. Developed filters will be tested to demonstrate that they have all the properties required for masks to be worn by medical personnel. If the research is successful, it will result in the development of a reusable medical mask that is superior to the single-use mask currently in use. Finally, the project will promote collaborations across different fields such as wood science, health science, engineering, chemistry and biology which, in turn, will support training and education of students in these fields.<br/><br/>The overarching objective of this RAPID research project is to develop a prototype for a reusable and environmentally friendly biofilter with antimicrobial and antiviral properties to be used as a filtering facepiece respirator. This objective will be attained with the use of bio-nanocomposites of polylactic acid in combination with cellulose nanofibrils and coated with copper nanoparticles. The result will represent improvements on current medical masks, including the design, fabrication processing and material properties. Process development will involve mixing cellulose nanofibrils into polylactic acid and converting the compounded material into filaments coated with copper nanoparticles, rendering the material suitable for additive manufacturing of the reusable biofilter. The copper nanoparticles will endow the filter with antimicrobial and antiviral properties, while the properly-dispersed nanocellulose will help to retain the microorganisms and also provide mechanical integrity. It is expected that masks using these filters will have the ability to both prevent penetration by microorganisms (having a diameter as small as 50 nm) and to kill many infectious agents as well. Rejuvenation of the filter will be done with the help of mild heat treatment. The structure and properties of the filters will be determined using standardized tests. The ability to compost polylactic acid will be helpful in the eventual disposal of the filter. If successful, the research will result in the development of a reusable respirator mask that is superior to the present-day mask. This will help to ease the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers and give them the best possible protection against microbial threats such as COVID19. Finally, the successful completion of the project will advance the knowledge and understanding of bio-nanocomposite components compatibility, and their specific effects on the final material performance within the context of engineering and technology education. This new knowledge will be generated across different fields such as wood science, health science, engineering, chemistry and biology. The proposed work will support synergies among these disciplines and foster training and education of students in these fields.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

Effects of Victimization on Engagement and Expression: University of Arizona

Jennifer Carlson

[email protected]

This project examines the effect of severe crime victimization on the mobilization of friends and family. Specifically, it investigates why some of these individuals mobilize and others do not and for those who do, why they mobilize in the way that they do. Prior research shows that victimization of a friend or family member affects public activity. In this project, interviews with such individuals are used to research how these events have affected their psychological, social, and public lives. Findings will be useful to social service agencies, decision makers, and others seeking to improve outcomes in this area.<br/><br/>Hypotheses that the forms of victimization will affect responses, conditional on demographic characteristics, will be investigated by identifying 36 cases of victimization and interviewing 5 to 15 individuals per case. These interviews will be spread across three different categories of victimization in two locations with different cultures. The interviews will be analyzed to engage questions regarding why people participate in the movements they do, the social psychological precursors to and consequences of public engagement, and the relationship between public culture and public outcomes. In doing so, the project will lay intellectual groundwork for scholars interested in analyzing the import of victimization, including but extending beyond the victimization investigated here.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: Hydrologic control on SARS-CoV-2 transfer to streams: Yale University

Peter Raymond

[email protected]

With the novel coronavirus causing major disruptions globally, there is an immediate need to understand sources of exposure, environmental prevalence and approaches for mitigation of transmission. While most work has focused on direct human-to-human transmission or indirect transmission indoors, environmental exposure could play an important role. Work on past Coronaviruses and other pathogenic viruses has demonstrated that they can reach streams and rivers from wastewater inputs, particularly during storm events. Evidence shows that the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-Cov-2, is present in sewage and coronaviruses can survive in water systems for days. This study will advance understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transfer to and along stream networks in an urban region impacted by the virus. This project will survey streams and rivers in areas of Connecticut impacted by the virus to test for the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 and assess mechanisms for the spread of the virus in the environment. The project will further train and prepare students on rapid-response research under challenging circumstances. <br/><br/>A primary objective of this work is to understand the transfer of SARS-CoV-2 to stream networks in a region impacted by the virus. In particular, it is hypothesized that major rain events leading to combined sewer overflow (CSO) and Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) overflow will have peak concentrations of SARS-CoV-2. The human or ecological impact of any particular pathogen will thus have the potential to be elevated during these periods of high transfer. Samples will be collected from two different types of systems. The first set will be from a number of smaller streams/rivers to assess transfers to the stream network. These streams and rivers will be chosen based on a history of CSO and WWTP overflow events. Sampling of a forested area will be included as a control for this set of sites. The second set of sites will be on the mainstem of the Connecticut River, which, like many rivers worldwide, has an urban center (Hartford/Springfield) flanking the river near the coast. This common geography leads to a large input of WWTP effluent on the mainstem of the river, with a short travel distance to the coast. Samples from the Connecticut River will be collected upstream of this urban center, within the city center, and downstream of any urban influence. Samples will be mostly collected during large hydrologic events (1-2 inches of precipitation) in the smaller stream/river systems over the next 2-3 months, but more frequently along the Connecticut River main-stem sites. Samples will be analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 using qPCR, DNA and RNA bacteriophages and viruses, chemical markers of WWTP and CSO effluent and a standard suite of standard water quality parameters to document the in-situ conditions during collection. This proposal integrates an interdisciplinary team that will broaden our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 prevalence under a hydrologic framework. The project will support five students across four departments, thus providing interdisciplinary training related to rapid response research and science.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: Computational studies of the structural dynamics, function and inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike protein: University of California-Irvine

Ioan Andricioaei

[email protected]

This NSF Rapid response Research (RAPID) project funded by the Molecular Biophysics Program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences will support a project that is aimed to thoroughly characterize the dynamical transitions the coronavirus membrane-surface spike (S) glycoprotein by computer simulations both locally upon receptor/antigen binding and globally upon fusion. The spike protein binds a receptor on the surface of the cell and undergoes a long-time, large-scale conformational transition that triggers fusion. This project will emphasize the role of deploying recent advances in enhanced sampling simulations to obtaining thermal and kinetic averages that make valid connection to the timescales of the experiments. Lessons learned from this project will not only improve the understanding of the structure and dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein but will deepen the molecular biophysics understanding of viruses in general. In addition to direct scientific insights, the project will impact the education of graduate, undergraduate, and middle-school students, inform a large research community, and engage the broader public through outreach activities.<br/><br/>The 2019 novel coronavirus, identified as the cause for the pneumonia pathology reported in Wuhan, spread quickly and became a global pandemic. The project will employ novel computational techniques grounded in rigorous statistical mechanics to understand the role of the dynamics for the function of the spike protein, the key macromolecular component whose structural rearrangements are responsible for antibody neutralization and entry to the host cell for infection. In its recently released prioritization recommendation, the World Health Organization stressed the need for antigens to target this spike protein. This project will help in the interpretation of biochemical measurements on neutralization sensitivity, receptor reactivity, and immunity response changes due to widespread infection.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: Glycocalyx engineering to probe the role of mucin structure in coronavirus transmission and infection: University of Utah

Jessica Kramer

[email protected]

Project Non-Technical Abstract<br/><br/>With this award, the Biomaterials Program in the Division of Materials Research and the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Division of Chemistry are funding Dr. Jessica R. Kramer from The University of Utah to study the role of mucus composition in coronavirus (COV) transmission. COV-related diseases have emerged as a serious public health threat. Airborne droplets from an infected person?s cough, sneeze, or even talking are a major source of viral spread. These droplets stem from virus-laden mucosalivary fluid and land on the mucus membranes of the next potential host (mouth, airway, eyes) or on hard surfaces. There, the virus is dispersed for the next infection. Mucus is produced in hundreds of forms that vary between species, and even person-to-person. The forms present could affect how easily the viruses pass through the mucus membrane, especially since some types bind directly to COVs. Mucus forms could also affect the concentration and viability of COVs in airborne droplets. The goal of this project is to identify the forms of mucus that result in increased airborne COV transmission and infection. This will be accomplished by simulation of cough droplets produced from varied mucus and using human cells coated with varied mucus. This knowledge could lead to development of new therapeutics that disrupt COV-mucus binding, or identify populations more vulnerable to COV transmission and infection. <br/><br/><br/>Project Technical Abstract<br/><br/>This research project undertakes study of the role of mucin glycoprotein structures in coronavirus (COV) transmission via airborne particles, fomite objects, and in cellular entry through the glycocalyx. Epithelial tissue is coated with protective mucins that are secreted to form mucus and also tethered to the cell surface to form the glycocalyx. COVs must traverse these layers before entry into host cells for replication. Viral transmission through expelled airborne mucosalivary droplets is a major mode of transmission. Mucins are produced with a variety of attached glycans specific to each host. These glycans alter the viscoelasticity of mucosalivary fluid and directly bind to COV spike proteins. These factors could affect virus loading and viability in airborne particles and could affect docking and diffusion at the cell surface. However, such questions have been challenging to answer because native mucin glycosylation is poorly-defined and not tunable by current biological methods. The PI?s lab will synthesize mucin analogs with tunable COV-binding glycan patterns and will use them to engineer the glycocalyx of live cell surfaces. Coughs will be simulated and the role of mucin structure in airborne respiratory droplet COV transmission will be examined by characterization of droplet morphology, and viral loading and viability. Docking and diffusion at the cell surface, as well as replication, will be quantified on live epithelial cells.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID Proposal: Psychological distance and risk perception related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak: SUNY at Buffalo

Janet Yang

[email protected]

This project assesses the American public?s perception of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak that originated from Wuhan, China. The focus of this research is to examine whether Americans? perception of the root cause of the outbreak, as well as whether they believe the outbreak is a distant issue for most Americans, will determine their risk perception and emotional responses to the outbreak. Further, this project examines the extent to which risk perception and emotions influence whether Americans seek information about this issue, share information with others, and support public health policies including international cooperation. The proposed research advances risk communication research, as well as enhances our understanding of strategic messaging design to benefit public health, prosperity and welfare.<br/><br/>The proposed research is an experimental survey to assess 1) how psychological distance (especially spatial and social distance) and causal attribution influence the U.S. public?s risk perception surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak; 2) how mental construal of the outbreak determines Americans? emotional responses to the outbreak; 3) how risk perception and emotional responses influence risk communication behaviors and public support for U.S. involvement in providing aid; and 4) whether cultural cognition moderates these relationships. The research involves a survey, based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 participants, who are randomly assigned to four experimental conditions. Psychological distance and causal attributions are the main experimental factors with cultural cognition as the primary moderator, while risk perception, emotional responses, communication behaviors, and support for U.S. response effort are the outcome variables. The outbreak provides a unique context to study public risk perception and risk communication behaviors. Although only a small number cases have been confirmed in the U.S. at the inception of the research, there is heightened media attention and the U.S. government has issued a travel ban to all foreign nationals who have been to mainland China. It is possible that social cognitive mechanisms, such as psychological distance, causal attribution, and cultural cognition will synergistically influence public risk perceptions and subsequent communication behaviors and support for public health policies. Exploring these mechanisms and their respective impacts can help us understand how to communicate better about a major disease outbreak in an interconnected world.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: A Longitudinal Study of Public Responses to the Coronavirus: University of Oregon Eugene

Ellen Peters

[email protected]

The coronavirus pandemic provides a rare opportunity to study public risk perceptions and risk-related behaviors in the midst of a World Health Organization Public Health Emergency of International Concern that could threaten the quality of life of a wide spectrum of Americans. Few emergencies within the United States have affected so many people. The situation is a rich opportunity because it is occurring in real-time and is highly dynamic, involving many players in our country and around the world. As a result, it allows the research team a chance to compare this health threat with other perceived disasters such as immigration, terrorism, and possible future public health emergencies. The public?s perceptions and risk-related behaviors seem likely to change over time in response to media coverage as well as actions from our own and foreign governments.<br/><br/>In one longitudinal study, the research team invites participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete one survey each month for 5 months. The researchers query their risk perceptions and affective responses toward the coronavirus, frequency of discussions about the coronavirus with others, behavioral intentions towards hypothetical experimental vaccines and treatments, and support for possible policy solutions such as quarantine. The research also ascertains their intended travel plans and media exposure to the pandemic including how much they trust those sources. The team models the emotional, risk-perception, and behavioral responses of participants toward the coronavirus by using a latent variable growth curve model that examines the trajectories of variables over time. To establish causal links, the scholars also conduct a second related experiment that manipulates affect through narratives and examines its effects on risk perceptions, medical decisions, and policy decisions. Participants are assigned to a more negative or less negative condition, and mediation analysis is used to evaluate the manipulation?s effects. In these studies, theoretical links are made between risk perceptions, social amplification of risk, the affect heuristic and other functions of affect, and numeracy. There is a dynamic test of the three functions of affect by correlating current feelings over time with risk judgments, intended prevention and treatment behaviors, and support for policy options. Theoretical research on affect has not been tested in the setting of a world health emergency. This research results in deep mechanistic understanding of how emotions and media exposure influence vaccine and treatment choices as well as support for policies. Finally, the second study establishes causal links between affect and support for prevention, treatment, and policy strategies. The research tests the dynamic and causal power of the functions of affect and motivated reasoning in order to lay the groundwork for interventions for emotional responses to the coronavirus and future epidemics. The research also has important implications, including for communication methods, for other affect-rich decisions faced by the public and policy makers.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: Investigating the Causal Propositions of the Affect Heuristic During an Ongoing Pandemic: Decision Science Research Institute

William Burns

[email protected]

The unprecedented pandemic wrought by the coronavirus has infected many people around the world, triggering anxiety and panic and disrupting all facets of life. In addition to the growing numbers of cases and deaths, the social, economic, and political impacts are vast. Lacking a vaccine or effective therapeutic cure, the front line of defense against the spread of this disease depends on human behavior, following guidelines about social distancing, sanitation, and other recommended measures. There is great uncertainty about the future trajectory of the disease and its impacts. Against the backdrop of this catastrophic threat this research forecasts public perceptions of risks, including hopes and fears, using a new theoretical model based on what is known as ?the affect heuristic.? The researchers build and test this model in two ways that increase understanding of how positive and negative emotions, influenced by daily news reports, interact to guide behavior. Understanding the changing reactions to news information not only advances understanding of risk perception, but enables the creation of effective risk communication messages. The research provides insight into the behaviors that will determine the course of the disease and can help to mitigate its harmful social and economic impacts.<br/><br/>Studies have consistently found an inverse relationship between judgments of benefits and risks associated with a wide array of hazards. This relationship occurs because perceptions of risk and benefit are derived in opposite ways from an affective sense of the importance of the risk. This process became known as the affect heuristic. The causal dynamics that underlie the relationship between affect and perceived risks and benefits remain poorly understood. This project does three things: (1a) constructs a system dynamics simulation model that explicitly incorporates the informational feedback loops that allow affect to play this moderating role and (1b) simulates the trajectories of affect and perceived risk and benefits as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, (2) constructs a hybrid agent-based model that incorporates findings from the systems model but allows for heterogeneity (e.g., different levels of medical vulnerability) among agents, and (3) conducts a longitudinal national panel to survey the public?s response to the pandemic over a 6 month period. These data together with data from an independent panel are be used to estimate and validate both models. This project has broad impacts because understanding how we manage our perceptions of risk and benefits is critical to the decisions we make and our behaviors. The project helps to explain this entanglement and predict public reaction to the current pandemic and, potentially, to other crises.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

RAPID: Biophysical characterization of the native SARS-CoV-2 virion by atomistic simulations: University of Delaware

Juan Perilla

[email protected]

Since December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that emerged in China has become a global pandemic. Research into the molecular basis of SARS-CoV-2 is now essential to provide understanding of viral entry and infection of human cells, a first step in developing novel drugs and vaccines to combat SARS-CoV-2. The research supported through this RAPID award will enable the development of an all-atom molecular dynamic simulation of the virus that includes realistic predictions of the envelope, membrane and spike proteins of the virus, as well as simulations of the complex surfaces of the human cells that the virus infects. This research could have immediate impact on steps taken to halt the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Simulation results will be broadly and quickly disseminated to ensure impact of the research. In addition, the investigators will use this as a training opportunity for students at all levels. <br/><br/>This project will use to state of the art tools of computational virology to provide bio-physical characterization of the SARS-CoV-2 virion, revealing information relevant to the function and potential targeting and disruption of the virus. The PI proposes a study of the full-size viral envelope which can establish the effects of specific components of the virus, including its bilayer lipid composition, shedding light on the need for coronaviruses to remodel the host cell membrane for successful infection. Additionally the characterization of the native SARS-CoV-2 viral surface proteins, which represent key functional and antigenic sites, will form a good basis for development of an infectious SARS-CoV-2 virion and a platform to investigate a mechanism of host cell entry, in which coronaviruses bind to CD13 receptors in lipid rafts. Study of glycosylated S protein, proposed as one of the aspects of the work, will reveal details of epitope masking by the glycan shield, relevant to vaccine and antibody design, as well as the role of viral glycans in host cell adhesion in a second mechanism of cell entry mediated by S binding to ACE2 receptors. The work could have immediate impact of the current pandemic.<br/><br/>This RAPID award is cofounded by the Molecular Biophysics Program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the EPSCoR Program.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

ResearchXR

Collaborative Research: A Bridge to Physics and Astronomy Doctorates for Students with Financial Need: Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, Inc.

Alexander Rudolph

[email protected]

With funding from the NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program, this project at California State Polytechnic University Pomona (CalPoly Pomona) will support high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need. This project will fund 146 scholarships over five years for students who are pursuing bachelor's degrees in physics and astronomy. Participating scholars will join a cohort-based mentoring and undergraduate research program spanning a diverse network of more than 50 California higher education institutions. These institutions are dedicated to the goal of increasing the number of students pursuing PhDs in physics, astronomy, and associated STEM disciplines. Led by CalPoly Pomona and the University of California Irvine in Southern California, and by San Jose State University and the University of California Santa Cruz in Northern California, more than 140 physics and astronomy faculty at the 24 California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses in the bridge network will serve as mentors to scholars supported by the project. In addition to receiving biweekly mentoring and progress monitoring by pairs of one UC and one CSU professor, these scholars will also receive full need-based scholarships during their junior and senior years, monthly professional development workshops, and supervised research opportunities via the successful NSF-funded CAMPARE program.<br/><br/>Given the size and diversity of the California secondary education system, the success of this S-STEM Track 3 project will likely significantly increase the number of PhDs nationwide earned by underrepresented minorities in the fields of physics and astronomy. All low-income students enrolled in a participating CSU campus are eligible for this California Bridge (Cal-Bridge) program, which searches for students with unusual potential, using holistic review and research-based criteria developed by successful bridge programs such as the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-PhD Bridge program. Unlike other existing bridge programs, Cal-Bridge begins with students during their formative undergraduate years, focusing on preparation rather than remediation. This multifaceted support will mitigate known barriers to graduate school entry for high-achieving, motivated students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and will thus greatly increase the probability they complete their undergraduate degree and gain entry to PhD programs. The project also involves multi-method social science research to understand the networks of scholars and institutions formed because of partnerships between Minority/Hispanic Serving Institutions and Research Universities, and the effect of those networks on recruitment and admissions to participating UC physics and astronomy departments. Over the five-years, social network analysis and qualitative case study methods will be used to capture patterns in Cal-Bridge Scholars' graduate school admissions and enrollment, as well as in impediments to these outcomes. These results, along with the project's growing connections with institutions beyond California, will have the potential to influence the national landscape of equitable participation by low-income students in STEM higher education.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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