Coming up with the Covid-19 answers: Universities communicating latest research

Posted on Apr 15, 2020

 

Universities around the world have been stepping up to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways. Our latest round-up from World 100 members highlights how universities have been showcasing the efforts of scientists and social scientists in addressing key elements of the pandemic. 

The promotion of research is, of course, the bedrock of the reputation strategies of many global universities; and the pandemic has given a unique opportunity for institutions to emphasise the practical applications of the ground-breaking work of our academics. 

 

The most high-profile academic focus initially in the pandemic response has come from epidemiologistswhose skills in mapping and understanding the spread of the virus have been to the fore. 

Johns Hopkins University in the US has had by far the highest-profile globally through its daily updates of worldwide coronavirus statistics, which have become an omnipresent feature in media reports. 

However, World 100 universities have also been prominent, with many academics contributing to the public discourse around the spread of the virus, and press offices are working hard tmake academics available for expert comment. 

A notable feature of university responses has been the development of technologies to help track the spread of the virus. Leiden University has developed the COVID radar app which is aimed at providing researchers with a clear idea of the current spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands. 

In the UK, academics from King’s College London launched a similar symptom-tracking up, More than 2 million people have now downloaded the app, and the first analysis of data has gained a great deal of subsequent coverage. 

Eindhoven University of Technology data scientists have developed models to calculate the expected number of new infections and deaths from the Covid-19 virus for 24 countries and four Dutch provinces. 

 

identifying the virus

University labs around the world have been working to identify the genetic make-up of the Covid-19 virus 

In Canada, teams from the University of Toronto and McMaster University made early breakthroughs in isolating the virus, to allow work to commence on tests. 

University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Resarch rapidly sequenced the virus from the first COVID-19 patient confirmed in Scotland. 

 

Covid –19 Testing

Developing effective tests for the novel virus has been another key area where universities have been highlighting their research efforts. 

University of Toronto academics have also been collaborating with colleagues at Sinai Health to develop blood test to identify who is immune. 

Other notable work in this area includes the University of Helsinki collaborating with commercial partners on the development of testing. 

World 100 universities Surrey & Lancaster in the UK, along with Brunel University, are developing a 30-minute test. The proposed molecular test and smartphone app would let people who are self-isolating test themselves, and allow health care workers test both patients and themselves. 

The University of Sydney is developing a biomarker blood test to determine how someone’s immune system responds after they test positive to the coronavirus. 

 

The longer-term defeat of the pandemic will only come when effective vaccines have been developed, and universities around the world have been racing to identify the right methods and to speed up the processes for getting them out into the population. 

More than 35 teams across the world are working on a vaccine against COVID-19, with several different approaches to vaccination being explored. 

University of Melbourne researchers have begun an Australian trial to test whether an existing vaccine can help prevent healthcare workers becoming sick with COVID-19.  

Researchers at National University of Singapore’s NUS / Duke Medical School are partnering with the university with a US biotech firm, a US-based biotech firm, to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Beyond the focus on vaccine development, teams are also looking at the possibility of developing treatments for COVID-19.  In Canada, colleagues from the universities of Toronto, McMaster and British Columbia are involved with others in initial clinical trials for a experimental treatment using plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients. 

 

Universities are also harnessing their research power to address wider implications of the pandemic. 

The London School of Economics, which of course has no medical school, has collected all its relevant research together, with a strong focus on economic impacts, government & policy and communications /social media.  

Research at the University of Groningen is looking at the legal implications of governments limiting freedoms in the name of public health. 

Academics at Concordia University are involved in research into how countries and their citizens are responding to the pandemic, and how different government responses are affecting people’s awareness, attitudes, and behaviours toward the disease. 

Finally, many of our members are doing an excellent job of bringing all their research together to provide a wide view of how academics are stepping up to address the pandemic. Notable examples include Helsinki, Utrecht BirminghamUBC SouthamptonKing’s College LondonQueen’s University Belfast, and QMUL. 

 

Share your own experiences with promoting examples of communicating research around COVID-19 via our LinkedIn group, Linkedin pageon Twitter or by email