Showcasing their bottomless energy, compassion, and drive to help, Berkeley Bioengineers have launched themselves into efforts to study the COVID-19 virus and outbreak, mitigate its effects, and support victims and caregivers. As Professor Dan Fletcher said, “we’ve really seen the amazing creativity and perseverance of the community here.”
The list below is just a short summary of the many, many efforts of our students, faculty and alumni.
- Berkeley Bioengineers have been working around the clock for the past two weeks in a multi-institution team of 60 scientists, engineers, students and clinicians to launch N95decon.org, a website that synthesizes the scientific literature about mask decontamination to create a set of best practices to decontaminate and reuse this protective face covering during the current emergency. Profs Amy Herr and David Rempel, graduate faculty affiliate Hana El-Samad, Phd students Anjali Gopal and Alison Su, bioengineering postdoc Samantha Grist, and BioE alumnus Tyler Chen are all key members of the team.
- Many, many students, faculty and alumni have been working with #GetMePPE to collect and donate Personal Protective Equipment to healthcare providers.
- Professor Amy Herr’s laboratory is collaborating with the University of Nebraska, UCSF and others on UV sterilization for PPE, with a test lab about to launch at UCSF.
- Professor Dan Fletcher’s lab has come up with a way to adapt the fluorescence microscopy function of their mobile phone microscope, the CellScope, to assist in rapid testing. They have been working with virology expert Melanie Ott of the Gladstone Institute and CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, among others, to provide the rapid remote detection portion of the team’s CRISPR-based COVID-19 RNA detection method.
- Assistant Professor Liana Lareau has been involved with the mobilization to borrow PCR machines from all over the Bay Area for virus testing. She is working diligently on the effort to get the full viral genome sequences from infected people to identify small pinpoint mutations in the virus, and gather as much genome information as possible for use in treatment and vaccine creation.
- Assistant Professor Patrick Hsu is working on next-generation CRISPR diagnostics and rapid point-of-care assays with the Innovative Genomics Institute. He is also personally working on validating the effectiveness of inexpensive, commercial rapid serology tests available on the internet, and with the School of Public Health on understanding asymptomatic viral transmission.
- Associate Professor Ian Holmes’ lab and the JBrowse project team is doing web-based coronavirus genomics using the JBrowse genome browser and Galaxy workflow manager. They have launched a “pastebin”-style service where anyone can upload a coronavirus genome and get a permalink to a shareable visualization.
- Bioengineering faculty and students working with the Innovative Genomics Institute have been involved in starting up the robotic COVID-19 testing lab, a pop-up campus lab with the capability to process more than 1,000 patient samples per day.
- Sravani Kondapavulur, 4th year MSTP/2nd year BioE PhD student, was an Innovation Mentor for a joint COVID-19 design challenge (JHU, UCSF, BU, Stanford) held virtually online.
- Michael Cronce, 3rd year BioE graduate student in Jay Keasling and Jeff Cox’s labs, works on antiviral therapeutics. They are gearing up to test these molecules on SARS-CoV-2 in Berkeley’s BSL3 facility.
- Katie Cabral, 6th year bioengineering PhD student, is volunteering for the new UCSF – CZ Biohub COVID-19 testing lab. At full capacity, it will dramatically increase the number of COVID-19 tests that UCSF can run per day. Volunteers from UCSF are being trained to run the liquid handling machines for the RNA extraction, run the qPCR, prepare the reagents needed to run the tests, handle waste, and any other tasks that are needed.
- Chris Mathy, 4th year PhD student in Tanja Kortemme’s lab, is involved in the “QBI Coronavirus Research Group” at UCSF (QCRG). This team of over 20 labs is working to study the molecular biology of how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with human cells, and ultimately propose therapeutic avenues for treatment.
Our alumni have been busy working on many fronts, independently and in their workplaces, including:
- contributing to COVID-19 case mapping,
- working with CIRM to create a rapid research funding opportunity for preclinical and clinical development of COVID-19 therapies,
- developing continuous remote monitoring tech,
- imaging COVID-induced lung damage in 3D,
- launching the nation’s first Coronavirus/COVID-19 downloadable home health monitoring application with the state of Nevada,
- analyzing U.S. readiness to diagnose,
- accelerating their viral neutralization platform development,
- helping kids with asthma monitor and manage their breathing issues at home,
- and so much more!