The University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute has swiftly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BIO5 researchers representing seven colleges will use seed funding from the Technology and Research Initiative Fund, or TRIF, to understand the life cycle of the novel coronavirus, identify potential treatments and create patient databases to expand understanding of the disease.
“Innovative faculty are working together to research how the virus spreads and infects people, develop new therapeutics and create programs to foster health and well-being,” says Jennifer Barton, director of BIO5. The institute brings together experts from agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy and science to address biology-based challenges like disease, environmental issues and food security.
TRIF was established through Proposition 301, approved by Arizona voters in November 2000 to raise the Arizona sales tax by 0.6%. Revenue generated by the tax supports university research and innovation in addition to K-12 education and community college workforce programs.
In response to the pandemic, TRIF funds were allocated to create a COVID-19 seed grant program. Proposals for interdisciplinary research directly addressing the pandemic were accepted from
teams of two or more researchers.
Applications were reviewed based on three criteria: the potential to make an immediate COVID-19 impact, the collaboration and teamwork of the applicants, and the use of facilities in addressing research questions.
“TRIF support has enabled the University of Arizona to be ready to address this kind of global threat because of the research services infrastructure and core facilities that it has allowed us to build up over the last 19 years,” Barton says.
Of the 55 seed grant applicants, 13 interdisciplinary groups were funded. With funds to support technical staff, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and resources to perform analyses, researchers will address the pandemic from several angles.
“Together, the preliminary data collected through these TRIF-supported seed grants will not only address COVID-19 from the perspective of viral infection, prevention and treatment but will also create resources that will prove useful in combatting this global pandemic,” says Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, the university’s senior vice president for research and innovation.
“TRIF has allowed University of Arizona assets like the BIO5 Institute to immediately respond to critical research needs associated with grand health and environmental challenges to improve outcomes for the people of Arizona and make a difference in our world.”