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COVID-19 Seed Grants Details

The Office of the Vice President for Research in partnership with the Immunology, Inflammation and Infectious Disease (3i) Initiative at the University of Utah has awarded $1.3 million in seed grants to more than 55 cross-campus projects that will examine a host of issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Projects fall into six broad categories:


Data Science & Genomic Medicine

Projects that aim to make better predictions of COVID-19, and engage cutting edge methods across artificial intelligence, genetics, and mathematical modeling. For example...

"Characterizing Local COVID-19 Emergent Phenomenon and Mitigation using Computational Modeling," Julio Facelli (Department of Biomedical Informatics) 

COVID-19 spreads due to human movement, but we don’t know how community restrictions help as immune status of individuals within a community changes. The goal of this study is to develop computational models to understand the spread of COVID-19.  The models will factor in environmental and social factors, as well as the movements of people.


  • Mathematically modeling the impact of viral interactions and evolution on the COVID-19 pandemic (Frederick Adler, Math & Biology)
  • Defining the heritable contribution to susceptibility and resistance to COVID-19 infection and mortality (Lisa Albright, Internal Medicine)
  • National VA and University of Utah Registries for COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 Research: A University of Utah Health Resource (Srini Beddhu, Internal Medicine)
  • Physical modeling of COVID-19 infection of the population, prediction and validation using emergent data (Ravi Chandran, Metallurgical Engineering)
  • Characterizing Local COVID-19 Emergent Phenomenon and Mitigation using Computational Modeling (Julio Facelli, Biomedical Informatics)
  • Enhancing Transmission Models of COVID-19 with New Data Sources (Lindsay Keegan, Internal Medicine)
  • Assessment of Patient Characteristics and Treatment Strategies from Critical Coronavirus-2019 Infections (COVID-19) (Dorothea Rosenberger, Anesthesiology)
  • Development of near real-time prediction models of COVID-19 spread in Utah (Ken Smith, Family & Consumer Studies)
  • AI/CXR Early Warning System for Infectious Respiratory Disease Outbreaks (Tolga Tasdizen, Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Environmental Impact & Minimizing Exposure

Projects that aim to understand how our actions are impacting the environment, and how to minimize exposure to COVID-19 across settings. For example...

“Municipal wastewater monitoring based surveillance and prediction tools for community level occurrence and spread of COVID-19,” Ramesh Goel, Jennifer Weidhaas, James VanDerslice, & Yue Zhang (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Family & Preventive Medicine, & Internal Medicine)


Urban waterways could potentially provide a major transport pathway for deadly viruses such as COVID-19. The goal of this project is to determine the presence of COVID-19 in Salt Lake City sewer lines using our newly developed molecular biomarkers. The data will be used to estimate risk assessment towards human health using microbial risk assessment tools.


  • Synthesis of Easily Sterilizable and Reusable Xerogel Filters for N95 Respirators (Krista Carlson, Metallurgical Engineering)
  • COVID: Understanding the capturing and evolution behavior of wetting and non-wetting aerosols on nanofibers matrix (Jiyoung Chang, Mechanical Engineering)
  • Disinfecting nanobubble shield against COVID-19 in hospital ER/ICU environments (P.K. Andy Hong, Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • The Impact of COVID-19 Measures on Human Behavior, Vehicle Travel, Air Quality, and Outpatient Hospital Visits (Daniel Mendoza, City & Metropolitan Planning)
  • Chemical free inactivation of Coronavirus via electroactive nanostructured cupric oxide (ENCO) (Swomitra Mohanty, Chemical Engineering)
  • Performance Testing of Alternative Respiratory Protection during a Pandemic (Darrah Sleeth, Family & Preventive Medicine)
  • Municipal wastewater monitoring based surveillance and prediction tools for community level occurrence and spread of COVID-19 (Ramesh Goel, Jennifer Weidhaas, James VanDerslice, & Yue Zhang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Family & Preventive Medicine, & Internal Medicine)

Health Impact Across Populations

Projects investigating the different ways that COVID-19 impacts people from different communities. For example...

“Minority Health Disparities and Health Information During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Robert Welsh (Department of Psychiatry)


COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities. The authors aim to determine the availability and efficacy of accurate and timely messaging to Utah’s Hispanic population.  They aim to increase the visibility of critical health messaging and inform to inform future crisis-related messaging efforts.


  • Elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying increased COVID-19 risks in patients with co-morbidities (Jessica Brown, Pathology)
  • Examining social support needs and networks of cancer survivors and their caregivers during COVID-19 (Kristin Cloyes, Nursing)
  • Advancing Current Understanding of how COVID-19 Affects Pregnancy and Childbirth: The COPE Study (Sheila Crowell, Psychology)
  • Developing COVID-19 guidelines for autoimmune disease patients (Tracy Frech, Internal Medicine)
  • Healthcare workers' exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and effectiveness of exposure controls (Rachael Jones, Family & Preventive Medicine)
  • "Psychological Impact of Social Isolation in Older Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic: an Ecological Momentary Assessment Study (Joseph Kim, Psychiatry)"
  • Co-VID19-mediated modification of malarial disease severity (Tracey Lamb, Pathology)
  • The Role of Inflammation and Myocardial Injury Leading To Cardiac Deterioration in Patients with COVID-19 (Kevin Shah, Internal Medicine)
  • Assessing Sexual and Reproductive Health Access in Utah During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Rebecca Simmons, Obstetrics and Gynecology)
  • Using Mobile Health Tools to Maintain Provider Wellness in a Pandemic (Stephen Trapp, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)
  • Minority Health Disparities and Health Information During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Robert Welsh, Psychiatry)
  • NETosis in Human COVID-19 Disease (Christian Yost, Pediatrics)

Mental Health & the Brain

Projects that explore how people are psychologically adjusting to the disruptions in everyday life. For example...

“Sleep, diet and physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic: Relationships with psychological adjustment and illness prevention behaviors,” Kelly Baron (Department of Family and Preventive Medicine)


The COVID-19 Pandemic has increased Americans’ stress and changed routines at work and home that could negatively affect sleep, exercise and have a healthy diet. The goal of this study is to understand people’s abilities to participate in healthy behaviors at this time, and if those behaviors reduce psychological distress, improve prevention behaviors (e.g. hand washing) and whether they are linked to lower susceptibility to developing COVID-19.


  • Sleep, diet and physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic: Relationships with psychological adjustment and illness prevention behaviors (Kelly Baron, Family & Preventive Medicine)
  • Spreading Depolarizations as a mechanism of disease in COVID-19 infection (KC Brennan, Neurology)
  • Utilizing Social media to Investigate the Psychological Consequences of Coronavirus-related Social Distancing (Michael Conway, Biomedical Informatics)
  • Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Undergraduate Research Experiences: A Multi-institutional Study (Sara Grineski, Sociology)
  • Peripheral Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1 and In Vivo Brain Energy Metabolism in Patients with Severe vs. Asymptomatic Cases of SARS-CoC2 (Douglas Kondo, Psychiatry)
  • College, Interrupted: Individual differences in freshmen college student mental health, identity, and retention in college as a function of covid-19 disruptions to education across four institutions (Monisha Pasupathi, Psychology)
  • Evaluating Neurochemical Correlates of SARS-CoV2 Infection: A Pilot Proton MRS Study (Andrew Prescot, Radiology & Imaging Sciences)

Social Impact & Policy

Projects seeking to understand how to better protect and prepare people from the unintended consequences of efforts to reduce exposure to COVID-19. For example...

“Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19: Understanding consequences of stay-at-home orders,” Sharon Talboys and Sonia Salari (Departments of Family and Preventive Medicine and Family and Consumer Studies)

While sheltering in place may help prevent exposure to COVID-19, it can isolate individuals into a confined space with a domestic abuser. The authors aim to plan for future pandemics by understanding the behaviors of assailants, new or emerging needs of victims, community response and plan to advise future disaster preparations.


  • Effectiveness of multi-hazard response planning for concurrent disasters (Case study: COVID-19 and post-earthquake response in the Salt Lake City Metro Region) (Divya Chandrasekhar, City & Metropolitan Planning)
  • A Geospatial Big Data Platform for Understanding Population Sentiment Toward the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States (Alexander Hohl, Geography)
  • A Resource Reallocation Surge Plan for US Hospitals for COVID19 (James Hotaling, Surgery)
  • Tracking Public Communication, Perceptions, and Behaviors Related to COVID-19: Improving Health Communication about Infectious Diseases (Jakob Jensen, Communication)
  • Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19: Understanding consequences of stay-at-home orders (Sharon Talboys & Sonia Salari, Family and Preventive Medicine & Family and Consumer Studies)

Testing & Treating COVID-19

Projects that aim to find better tests, treatments, and a cure for COVID-19. For example...

“Discovery and Design of a D-peptide Entry Inhibitor of SARS-Related Coronaviruses,” Michael Kay (Department of Biochemistry)

The authors propose to develop drugs that stop the virus from entering cells by targeting a highly conserved region of the virus. This drug could be effective against SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and other SARS-like coronaviruses that cause future outbreaks.


  • A candidate broad acting inhibitor of coronaviruses (Nels Elde, Human Genetics)
  • Development of a hemagglutination-based field test detecting COVID-19-specific antibodies (Hans Haecker, Pathology)
  • Enhancing T follicular helper cells for protective and long-lasting vaccination against pandemic coronavirus (Jeffrey Hale, Pathology)
  • SARS-CoV-2 Codon Usage Bias: Rationalizing the Development of Live Attenuated Viral Vaccines (Michael Howard, Human Genetics)
  • The role gamma-IFN inducible lysosomal thiol reductase (GILT) in human and mouse immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 virus (Peter Jensen, Xiao He & Zemin Zhou, Pathology)
  • Discovery and Design of a D-peptide Entry Inhibitor of SARS-Related Coronaviruses (Michael Kay, Biochemistry)
  • Thermodynamic Considerations for Zinc Chemotherapeutics towards Emergent Coronavirus (Matthew Kieber-Emmons, Chemistry)
  • Enabling the in-situ real-time detection of COVID-19 viruses via a quantum tunneling-based nanogap sensor (Hanseup Kim, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Rapid Microfluidic Synthesis of Novel SARS-CoV-2 Entry Inhibitor Antiviral Drugs (Carlos Mastrangelo, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Homogeneous Immunoassays to Monitor COVID-19 Exposure and Identify Neutralizing Antibodies (Shawn Owen, Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry)
  • Rapid Pseudovirus Assay to Test Antibody Neutralization Against CoVID-19 and Infectivity (Vicente Planelles, Pathology)
  • Multiplexed Detection of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 Biomarkers for Diagnosis and Surveillance (Marc Porter & Lars Laurentius, Chemistry & Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • The Synthesis of Coronavirus Translation Inhibitors (Jon Rainier, Chemistry)
  • Chemical Resources for Combatting Coronaviruses (Eric Schmidt, Medicinal Chemistry)
  • Human Amniotic Fluid for COVID-19 Associated Respiratory Failure (Craig Selzman, Surgery)
  • Detection of Airborne COVID-19 Using Capsid Protein Aptamers in Exhaled Air (Massood Tabib-Azar, Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Contact Us

Daniel Leung, MD

Co-Director, 3i Initiative
Associate Professor, Internal Medicine

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Ryan O'Connell, PhD

Co-Director, 3i Initiative
Professor, Pathology

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Nicole Frank, PhD

Associate Director, 3i Initiative
Vice President of Health Sciences Research Unit
Phone: 801-213-0644

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