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University of Puerto Rico joins national, global COVID-19 research efforts

The University of Puerto Rico is joining local and global efforts to prevent, mitigate and stop COVID-19, through 10 selected investigations, which will share $1.7 million from the government of Puerto Rico, UPR President Jorge Haddock confirmed.

Professors from the Río Piedras, Mayagüez and Medical Sciences campuses will investigate the immunological characterization of the response to the new coronavirus in Puerto Rico, the genetics of the patient susceptible to COVID-19 and stressors associated with the pandemic, the identification and evaluation of inhibitors cell phones as new drugs against COVID-19, long-term cognitive and psychological results in the Puerto Rican survivor, factors in patients associated with the severity of the disease and natural products such as antiviral agents, among others.

“We’re very proud, pleased and hopeful with the diversity and quality of the proposals presented by our professors,” Haddock said.

“These investigations constitute one of the most important projects that are being developed by the University of Puerto Rico due to the impact they will have on the health of the people, not only on our island but on a global level, and their great contribution to stop the contagion of COVID- 19,” he said.

“In addition, it’s an effort consistent with the institutional objective of increasing our research portfolio. I congratulate all the researchers at our university who have such an important task in their hands, and we wish them the best of success in their work,” said Haddock.

Carmen Bachier, vice president of external resources at the university system that the 10 research proposals were chosen from a total of 38 that competed for the distribution of the funds assigned to the institution in April. An additional $23,526 was identified from the institutional budget, she said.

The evaluation and selection process was carried out in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, Bachier said.

The Trust identified external evaluators from 11 countries: The United States, Canada, Colombia, Spain, Finland, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom for the selection process, she said.

Andreica Maldonado, director of the Science Trust’s research grant program, on whose platform the evaluations were expounded, said the scientific process used to select the winning proposals, “is based on standardized and recognized peer review procedures used by federal agencies such as the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.”

“This process enables the scientific merit of grant applications to be evaluated in a fair, independent, expert-led manner, and free from inappropriate influence, so that the most promising projects can be funded,” Maldonado said.

More than 30 institutions participated in the evaluation process, including: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; Oxford University; Rutgers; State University of New Jersey; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Proposals in areas of clinical research, scientific data, epidemiology, social sciences and mental health, disease pathology, pharmacology, among others, were evaluated from 21 professors from the Medical Sciences Campus, 12 from the Río Piedras Campus and give from the University of Mayagüez Campus.

“Right now, at the Trust we’re focused on facilitating more solutions to address the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, to move toward a vaccine,” Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo said.

“This collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico is aligned with part of our mission to invest, facilitate and develop the capacities that continuously advance Puerto Rico’s economy and the well-being of its citizens. We hope to see the fruit of these projects soon,” Crespo said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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