The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust Grant Program has selected six projects from local institutions with innovative projects to combat the COVID-19 virus on the island, it announced.
The program, which was designed to select five winners with a total budget of $500,000, was expanded to include six winners, who split $600,000. The list includes a proposal for a ventilator design and manufacturing: the E-Vent COVID-19 Puerto Rico Emergency Response by chief researcher Brenda L. Martinez-Quiñones of the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras.
“This is one of the best demonstrations of the capacity of our scientific and business ecosystem that we have seen,” said Andreica Maldonado, director of the Science Trust Grants Program.
“Once again, we can see that it is in the midst of the crisis when creativity and innovation come to the surface with great technological advances for the benefit of many. Our mission is to support research and development so that these projects become a reality,” she said.
At the close of the call, a total of 80 proposals were received in the following areas: one in disease pathogenesis; seven in pharmacology; nine in clinical research; 10 in epidemiology; 11 in mental health and social sciences; 21 in cyber infrastructure; and, 21 in research and development.
Of all the proposals received, 60 were passed on to expert evaluators in the field who ranked them in terms of their technical and scientific merits, incorporation of innovative approaches or concepts, how ready the solution is to be implemented and/or commercialized, how much it helps solve the immediate problem caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, and other aspects such as experience and credentials of the researchers and budget justification, the Science Trust said.
Finally, 15 proposals with the highest scores were discussed by all evaluators in a panel and they were selected and ranked by agreement for funding.
The other five winning projects were:
- Rapid generation of high-affinity reagents for the point-of-care diagnosis and the study of SARSCoV-2 virus by Dr. José A. Rodríguez-Martínez of the UPR-Río Piedras;
- Development of a post-exposure prophylaxis device to reduce Covid-19 transmission and disease severity in healthcare workers by Dr. Ignacio Pino of CDI Laboratories Inc.;
- Novel and reliable assays for contact tracing and detection of acute infected and immune persons from SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by Dr. Carlos A. Sariol and Dr. Ana M. Espino of the UPR Medical Sciences Campus;
- Pilot Cohort study of SARS-CoV-2 incidence, transmission and symptom severity in high-risk groups in Puerto Rico by Dr. Filipa Godoy-Vitorino, from the UPR Medical Sciences Campus; and,
- Risk Factors and Outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Healthcare Providers by Dr. Vanessa Rivera-Amill, Ponce Health Sciences University.
After selecting the winners, the Science Trust plans to connect the potential projects that were not funded with other programs such as SBIR, Colmena 66, Parallel18, among others, and explore additional sources of funding to continue supporting research and mitigation of COVID19 in Puerto Rico, officials said.