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Khalifa University Responding to COVID-19 with 14 Funded Research Projects

Establishes ‘COVID-19 Research and Development Task Force’ to Accelerate Solutions in Epidemiology, Diagnostics and Medical Devices, and Digital Tools for Modeling and Predicting Spread of Virus

Khalifa University of Science and Technology has established a COVID-19 Research and Development (R&D) Task Force as part of its strategic approach to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in response to a call for industry, government and academic sectors to mobilize efforts to mitigate and manage the spread of the novel coronavirus and to create new technologies and solutions that will bolster the world’s ability to deal with future pandemics.

Under the COVID-19 R&D program, Khalifa University has launched a total of 14 research projects; five projects focused on epidemiology, six projects focused on diagnostics and medical devices, and three projects focused on digital tools for understanding, mitigating and providing resiliency against disease spread. 

Of the 14 projects launched, six have been developed as focused programs, each led by two faculty experts, while eight projects have been awarded as part of an open call for proposals across Khalifa University. These research projects were selected based on their technical merit, innovation, ability to deliver results within six months and alignment with the COVID-19 science and technology needs.

The Task Force is mandated to oversee several initiatives including coordination of the University’s cross-sector stakeholder R&D engagements and development of an R&D program that leverages the university’s established research strengths for addressing the UAE’s priority R&D areas for COVID-19. These include epidemiology, diagnostics and medical devices, digital tools for modeling and predicting disease spread and digital tools for mitigation and resiliency measures.

Dr Steve Griffiths, Senior Vice-President, Research and Development, Khalifa University, said: “From the start, Khalifa University’s response has been focused and coordinated to ensure that its resources are used efficiently to contribute science and engineering-based solutions to efforts aimed at quickly bringing the outbreak under control. The university’s measures will place its strongest research assets and ideas at the front lines in the global fight against coronavirus. Through mobilizing its R&D resources in response to COVID-19, Khalifa University is setting the perfect role for academic institutions in the region.”

The projects harness the University’s core research strengths, particularly in the area of healthcare. Over the past few years, Khalifa University has established research capabilities in healthcare by launching two of the region’s leading healthcare research centers – the Healthcare Engineering Innovation Center (HEIC) and the Biotechnology Center (BTC) – in addition to establishing a College of Medicine and Health Science (CMHS).

The two research centers along with CMHS bring in-depth scientific expertise in a range of medical disciplines. They specifically provide expertise in biomedical technologies, genomics, bioinformatics and functional biology. Each center possesses state-of-the-art research facilities that are being used to advance the development of solutions for COVID-19.

Consequently, researchers at HEIC have already completed the development of an emergency ventilator prototype designed with affordable, easily accessible materials and 3D printing to meet the growing regional and global ventilator caused by COVID-19. Researchers from the BTC are leveraging the center’s genomic analysis capabilities to validate the sensitivity of commercially available polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 medical test kits.

For digital tools, Khalifa University’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intelligent Systems Institute, which was launched in July 2019, brings together the university’s robotics, AI, data science, telecommunications and semiconductor hardware capabilities under a single umbrella to accelerate research. Through this Institute, Khalifa University is exploring the most efficient and effective ways to gather a broad spectrum of data related to COVID-19 and then use data analysis, particularly AI, and data modeling to harness actionable insights.

At the same time, a cross-disciplinary team has already developed an open-source epidemiological model that can help decision makers visualize the impact of different mitigation interventions, such as universal social isolation or selective isolation of the elderly. Another research team is in the process of developing a mobile app to collect data from the smartphones of COVID-19 patients to identify whether they are at high risk of severe medical complications from the virus. With these initiatives, Khalifa University researchers continue to demonstrate the essential role of such projects in tackling the pandemic.

Erica Solomon, Senior Editor and Clarence Michael, News Writer
18 May 2020