Arizona’s COVID Response

March 30, 2020

By brianpowell

TGen, universities form union to track spread of virus 

The Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union, comprised of researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the three state universities, tracks the spread and evolution of the new coronavirus through the genomic sequencing of Arizona patients. The group also confirms that the first case of COVID-19 in Arizona in January 2020 was successfully contained. 

ASU Biodesign Institute develops saliva-based COVID-19 test 

The first FDA-approved saliva-based COVID-19 test in the western United States, developed by Arizona State University researchers, provides a less-invasive and cheaper alternative to the nasal-swab test. Meanwhile, University of Arizona researchers develop an antibody test using a blood draw. Separately, ASU receives a $12.5 million federal contract to help build the Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19 to study immune responses. 

NAU launches center to test COVID-19 drug candidates 

The Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University repurposes its existing biodefense research infrastructure to create the COVID-19 Testing Service Center. Researchers grow the SARS-CoV-2 virus and then test new drugs against it. 

Universities track COVID-19 through wastewater 

ASU, UArizona, and NAU monitor untreated wastewater to track spread of the coronavirus in Tempe, Tucson, and Flagstaff. The ASU research helps to launch the startup Aquavitas, which signs a federal contract for expanded studies. UArizona efforts likely prevent a surge in student cases by identifying two asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in a dorm. 

TGen North researchers create early tests to identify disease 

Scientists at TGen North develop an early test for COVID-19 and team with Flagstaff-based Poba Medical to produce about 10,000 COVID-19 test kits per month. TGen researchers later identify a molecule made from DNA— miR1307—that may influence the severity of the disease. 

Barrow Innovation Center develops N95-substitute masks, face shields 

The Innovation Center at Barrow Neurological Institute engineers reusable N95-substitute masks through a process of 3-D printing and silicone molding to create a tight seal, and develops other PPE prototypes, including face shields and general surgical masks. 

Student-run Luminosity Lab at ASU wins international face-mask challenge 

ASU students win a $500,000 prize in a worldwide competition for their design of a face mask to protect against COVID-19. In addition, Luminosity Lab develops two low-cost sterilization systems— one device using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize N95 masks, and a second using ozone to sterilize clothing and reusable masks—and creates the online PPE Response Network, enabling providers to request needed equipment. 

Fashion incubator switches gears to make reusable hospital gowns  

FABRIC Tempe, a fashion incubator that supports apparel entrepreneurs, makes more than 500,000 reusable, FDA-approved isolation gowns for health-care workers at local hospitals and on the Navajo Nation.