Princeton funds seven rapid, novel and actionable COVID-19 research projects

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2020
by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

With the aim of accelerating solutions to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton has awarded University funding for seven new faculty-led research initiatives with strong potential for impact, including one in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

The funding enables faculty and their teams to address crucial questions in biomedical, health-related and fundamental science, as well as policy, social and economic topics. Projects will receive funding of up to $100,000.

Proposal for identifying small molecules targeting SARS-CoV-2 spike binding to human ACE2 cell receptor

A team led by Clifford Brangwynne, professor of chemical and biological engineering, will search for molecules that disrupt the cycle of infection by blocking the interaction between the virus’s spike proteins and the ACE2 receptors on human cells. The team will screen thousands of known bioactive compounds, including ones with prior FDA approval for other indications that could be rapidly deployed. Upon identifying promising compounds, the team will work with partner labs to move these candidates toward clinical testing.

Other projects include research on asymptomatic transmission, immunity following infection, vaccines, new treatments, contact tracing, economic implications of social distancing, challenges unique to urban environments, and strategies for reducing pandemic-associated domestic violence.

The University’s support for new research against COVID-19 was spurred by a groundswell of requests from faculty, said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, whose office coordinated the application process and the review of the proposals.

“Many members of the Princeton faculty have reached out with requests for opportunities to use their knowledge, ideas and skills to assist in combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering. “The quality of the proposals received is a testament to the creativity of our faculty and to their dedication to the common good in this challenging time.”

See a full listing of COVID-19 projects at Princeton.