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March 2020 Notes from the Georgia Research Alliance
 
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Georgia’s bright minds, bold entrepreneurs join the COVID-19 fight


The Wall Street Journal wrote about a promising drug to fight COVID-19 being developed at Emory. The New York Times featured Georgia Tech engineers who are developing new forms of personal protective equipment. The AJC spotlighted a potential COVID-19 vaccine in the works in Ted Ross’s lab at UGA; Vice President Pence noted Emory is beginning clinical trials on another vaccine. And The Weather Channel aired a story on GRA Distinguished Investigator Bill Wuest, who showed us what good handwashing really looks like — and why it works. These are just a few of the contributions being made by Georgia’s university scientists and startups to combat the coronavirus pandemic, many of which garnered media attention in March. The vast majority of this activity, we’re happy to say, has ties to GRA’s earlier investments in research talent, lab technology and early entrepreneurship — seeds that are now bearing important fruit. • See a partial list of Georgia universities “in the fight” >

GRA publishes financial resources for startups

Financial assistance from the State of Georgia and federal government is available to young and newly launched companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help navigate the assistance, GRA has assembled a resource list with quick links to websites. • Download the list >

Gov. Kemp issues statewide call to action

To help connect capacity to need in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp is asking industry and facility owners in the state to step up. Specifically, the Georgia Department of Economic Development seeks to identify manufacturers and distributors in the state that “produce, distribute or store critical health supplies” that are or may become scarce. GDEcD is also looking for facilities that can be repurposed to produce such supplies. To answer the governor’s call, start by completing a simple information form.

GRA site promotes lab equipment sharing

A scientist at one Georgia research university can use equipment and facilities at all the others through the GRA Core Exchange program. Now, a new area of GRA.org makes it easy for Georgia’s scientists to learn more about the instruments and technologies available at these core facilities. The Core Exchange area allows for browsing by categories or searching for specific equipment, and each university can update its information to ensure accuracy. “Our state’s university scientists have always excelled at collaborating with each other,” says Susan Shows, GRA’s senior vice president. “It seemed logical to make it easy for them to share equipment.” Mike Zwick, associate VP of research at Emory’s Woodruff Center for Health Sciences, led the team that developed the exchange. • Visit the GRA Core Exchange on GRA.org >

Georgia Tech’s Rampi Ramprasad to build on pioneering exploration of new materials

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a third major grant to GRA Eminent Scholar Rampi Ramprasad — this time to use machine learning and chemistry to design new polymer materials that can be recycled. Ramprasad, of Georgia Tech, is one of the world’s foremost experts in using computation and data science to accelerate materials research. His earlier DOD grants, awarded through a highly competitive initiative called MURI, broke new ground in understanding polymers, which make up so many of the materials in everyday life. Also this month: Ramprasad had the high honor of being named a Fellow to the Materials Research Society, a program that recognizes extraordinary contributions to the field. Georgia Tech’s Gleb Yushin, co-founder of GRA-backed Sila Nanotechnologies, was also named an MRS Fellow. • More on the DOD grant >Read about Rampi’s pioneering work >

UGA center publishes Parkinson’s discovery

The body’s first-line defenders against pathogens may hold the key to stopping the onset or progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a UGA study published this month. Scientists in the Regenerative Bioscience Center, which is led by GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Stice, discovered that these defenders — “natural killer” white blood cells — efficiently attack invaders and can possibly keep down “hallmarks of Parkinson’s,” such as brain inflammation and protein clumping. Depleting these killer cells in mice, they found, left the nervous system vulnerable to attack. Lead author Jamise Lee, who partnered with Georgia Tech on the study, says that “understanding how the periphery signals for [natural killer cells] patrol for infectious agents, even in the absence of disease, could lead to breakthrough treatments for Parkinson’s disease.” Above: UGA’s Jamise Lee, and an image she captured of damaged neurons in a mouse brain.More about UGA’s work in Parkinson’s >

Remembering a trailblazer of bioengineering

Georgia’s university research community lost a giant this month. Bob Nerem, who helped usher in a new era of exploration into bioscience and bioengineering at Georgia Tech, died March 6. Nerem founded the Petit Institute for Bioscience and Bioengineering — nicknamed IB2 — at Georgia Tech in 1995 and led it for the next 15 years. He was also instrumental in shaping the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, a rare collaboration between a public university (Georgia Tech) and private university (Emory). “Bob was at the center of a vast network of leaders who shaped the field of biomedical engineering by identifying and promoting the very best talent,” says GRA Eminent Scholar Ross Ethier. “He was immensely helpful to me personally. We will probably never know how many people he mentored over his career, but I’m sure it was in the thousands, a true testament to his impact and tireless work for the broader community.” Nerem was 82. • A rich remembrance right here >

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