LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 12, 2020) — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Kentucky experts quickly mobilized and pivoted their research to unite in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
UK researchers across many disciplines are addressing COVID-19’s medical challenges and beyond — including developing new personal protective equipment (PPE) materials, designing testing and diagnostic equipment, and examining the wider societal, economic and legal implications of the pandemic.
UK’s COVID-19 Unified Research Experts (CURE) Alliance team has expanded to represent and support this full range of COVID-related research taking place at the university. The research Alliance mechanism originated under the leadership of Dr. Robert DiPaola, dean of the College of Medicine, in collaboration with the UK Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis, and is intended to support research that is driven by science and enabled by a structure that brings researchers together across boundaries. This structure was the perfect vehicle to quickly organize research addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first CURE Alliance was launched to organize and support COVID-19 related medical research. UK now has two additional CURE Alliance structures in other COVID-19 research areas: Materials/Methods and Social Sciences. Together, these CURE Alliance groups are working to foster innovative, interdisciplinary COVID-19 research.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents complicated challenges that require interdisciplinary solutions,” said Cassis, who has guided the campus-wide effort. “The CURE Alliance teams reflect the University of Kentucky’s breadth of research expertise and collaboration and will support our experts as they identify new innovations to help us today and to help us respond to future pandemics.”
The three CURE Alliance teams will facilitate and coordinate research within their given areas and connect projects to funding opportunities. Each includes a selected faculty leader who works with an interdisciplinary team of experts appointed to help achieve the goals of the research.
The Health CURE Alliance, led by Rebecca Dutch, a virologist and professor of molecular & cellular biochemistry in UK’s College of Medicine, is focused on advising COVID-19 patient care and clinical trials based on emerging research and potential treatment options.
The Materials/Methods CURE Alliance, led by Brad Berron, a professor of chemical engineering in UK’s College of Engineering, is focused on the materials and tools that address emerging COVID-19 needs, as well as technological advancements in diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Priority areas include impact on food infrastructure and access, detection support and PPE-related research and production.
The Social Sciences CURE Alliance, led by Julie Cerel, a professor and licensed psychologist in the UK College of Social Work, aims to examine COVID-19’s impact on mental health, family and interpersonal relationships, as well as health communication and health literacy. Additional priorities of this core include COVID-19-related health disparities and how new laws and policies will impact service providers and essential workers.
The Office of the Vice President for Research is also supporting a pilot program through the CURE Alliance and UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science to rapidly fund and establish COVID-19 research projects. Proposals, which can range from basic science to population level outcomes research, are assessed for their viability to garner external funding as well as their potential to expand or develop new knowledge of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.