NYU CHEMISTRY RESPONDS
As people all over the world struggle with COVID19, and New York City found itself in the epicenter of the pandemic during its earliest weeks, members of the NYU community responded and continue to respond to the crisis. NYU Chemistry Department faculty, students, researchers and staff are contributing to the effort in countless ways. For instance:
Alexej Jerschow created a Covid Dashboard allowing one to compare countries either normalized by population or in total numbers, by cumulative numbers, etc., providing information that is difficult to find elsewhere. Check it out here: https://covid.jerschow.com.
Seven research groups in the Chemistry Department have teamed up to develop or screen new classes of compounds to inhibit virus entry and replication. These Chemical Biology laboratories have complementary expertise and offer different insights into potential drug design. The Initiative includes experts in the computational design of molecules (Paramjit Arora, Kent Kirshenbaum, Dirk Trauner, Yingkai Zhang), synthesis of drug candidates (Arora, Kirshenbaum, Dirk Trauner), synthesis and screening of peptidomimetic ligands (Hamilton), expression of proteins and biochemical assays (Arora, Tania Lupoli, Nate Traaseth) and structural biology (Traaseth). Drug discovery is a long-term process. At the moment, the goal is to discover molecular entities that can specifically target the viral life cycle. Several efforts to repurpose existing drugs for COVID-19 are underway around the globe. NYU Chemical Biology’s efforts are focused on discovery of new modalities should the current FDA-approved drugs fail. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is likely to be with us for a long time and return in mutated forms. Therefore, efforts to discover new types of antiviral drug molecules need to be started as soon as possible.
Kent Kirshenbaum is conducting additional research as co-investigator on the NSF RAPID funded project headed up by Physics Professor David Grier. That research, developing highly accurate rapid testing of COVID19, is described in the link below. On the team of researchers is our own Academic Program Coordinator's husband, Andrew Hollingsworth, also in Physics.
Tamar Schlick was awarded an NSF RAPID grant to explore COVID19 RNA genome targets by graph-theory based modeling. She presented her findings at the Biophysical Society Symposium: Biophysicists Address COVID-19 Challenges in October 2020.
Of course, these research efforts include students, postdoctoral researchers and staff, as well as faculty. The nature of their research has turned this robust group of people into essential workers, including the unsung heroes that receive deliveries, maintain equipment, and conduct other daily operations.
In addition, we have been hearing from alumni participating in front line research, including Brooke Bullock Lau at Pfizer, Diane Lye and Debbie Rooker at Gilead and George Ehrlich at Regeneron. We are proud to include their contributions, even though they have left the nest!
Masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies in high demand have been collected from teaching labs and research labs alike and have been donated to hospitals and health care workers around the city.
In addition to the contribution of existing overstock, some individuals are organizing efforts to create new supplies. One of our grad students, Max Paukner, shared a story of making hundreds of reusable face shields with a group of students from Langone, and ultimately donating a total of 5,000 face shields, with disposable and reusable combined!
Many have made donations to the NYU Emergency Relief Fund that helps alleviate the financial burdens on students who were compelled to leave campus on short notice.
Individuals have made personal out-of-pocket purchases of materials with which to construct the much needed masks and face shields.
In the midst of our struggles to move forward scientific research and increase physical safety in response to the coronavirus, one graduate student has focussed her efforts on our personal wellness. Cicely Shillingford, who is writing her dissertation while sheltering in place, is running weekly workouts on zoom for the NYU Chemistry community. She has developed inclusive sessions that can be adapted to any level - once a week it's a workout, and once a week it's yoga - for anyone who wishes to join from wherever they are. What a terrific way to keep us healthy in body, mind and spirit, while also offering an excuse to check in with each other. Thanks, Cicely!
A group of freshman took the creative route to ease the anxiety. Tony Kopatsis, with his friends Lianne Rose Davidoff and Tyler Orbin from Steinhardt, created an inspiring video featuring many of Tony's classmates in General Chemistry. Clinical Professor Yoel Ohayon lent his voice to the mix, delivering a message of hope.
Link to NYU RESPONDS:
Read about the ongoing efforts of the university community here, with stories from the front lines.