UW-Madison researchers teaming up on COVID-19 related projects

UW-Madison researchers from a wide array of disciplines are teaming up on dozens of projects related to COVID-19.

“We’ve got some of the top virologists in the world in our veterinary medicine school at UW-Madison,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank today during a webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council. “They’re working collaboratively with a number of other places, leading the international effort to develop and test a vaccine.” 

As the world grapples with new challenges created by the virus, the U.S. government has issued numerous grant proposals for research aimed at COVID-19. According to Blank, UW-Madison has around 50 pending or awarded proposals “just in the last couple of months” related to the virus or its societal fallout. 

She noted that UW Health has been taking part in a national effort to run clinical trials testing the use of antibodies as potential therapies. By taking antibodies from people who have previously had the virus and introducing them to others who develop COVID-19, scientists are looking to reverse the course of the disease. 

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from the departments of geography, mathematics and life sciences are working on how to best communicate about risk and impact of the virus. 

“The goals are, what are the best practices to message about social distance, to message about risky things and how that should change our behavior?” Blank said. “It’s a really interesting question — how do you get America to start wearing masks in public, or social distance, and how do you get that message out most effectively?” 

Other collaborations are occurring between UW-Madison’s recently created American Family Data Science Institute and other academic institutions around the world. By analyzing the hourly and daily data on infections, deaths and hospitalizations, researchers are building a more accurate model over time of how the disease spreads. 

“They’re not just building the aggregate model,” she said. “They’re trying to look at impacts on different groups and make predictions about what the spread and what these infections look like.”

Watch the discussion here.  

-By Alex Moe