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UC’s CITRIS launches COVID-19 response with 25 awards for innovative technologies

Covid-19 coronavirus, face masks, social distancing

(Contributed)

May 14, 2020 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Image credit: CITRIS & the Banatao Institute website)

UCSC researchers lead three teams from initial round of seed funding

The first 25 teams awarded seed funding for technology projects designed to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis were announced today by CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, a multicampus research institute of the University of California, headquartered at UC Berkeley. Within days of the application deadline, a $1.6 million matching challenge from an anonymous donor expanded potential funding exponentially, increasing the number of projects that can be awarded.

Rapid-cycle ventilators; next-gen face masks; new algorithms for contact tracing and advance prediction; a genome browser to integrate molecular-level genetic information to accelerate research; and a portable, point-of-care rapid-testing device the size of a credit card are some of the potential “game-changers” among the 97 proposals received. Interdisciplinary projects covered many aspects of the pandemic’s impact, from testing, treatment, and transmission to genomics and virology, policy and privacy.

See the full list of 25 projects here.

Projects were funded at an average of $50,000 each, and selected with an eye towards cost, scalability, and impact. All are centered in one of four CITRIS-affiliated UC campuses: UC Berkeley, UC Davis (including UC Davis Health), UC Merced, and UC Santa Cruz. Projects are designed to show research results within three to six months.

“This amazing response from the research community and our generous donor will greatly accelerate the innovation, ingenuity, and public service of the University of California,” said CITRIS Director Costas Spanos, also a UC Berkeley faculty member in electrical engineering and computer science. “We are immensely grateful and welcome additional partners to further expand our efforts to address the pandemic.”

“We are all united in the vision that innovation can steer us not back to where we were, but to a stronger, more resilient health care system going forward,” said CITRIS Health Faculty Director Tom Nesbitt, senior advisor to UC Davis Health executive leadership and co-director of the Healthy Aging in a Digital World Initiative. Nesbitt is also a member of the University of California COVID-19 Task Force.

In addition to offering seed funding, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute has also undertaken other efforts to address the pandemic through its research thrusts and labs, from mobilizing CITRIS Health’s international networks to get PPE into the hands of U.S. clinicians to fabricating ventilator adaptors in the CITRIS Invention Lab to convert consumer-grade sleep apnea devices for clinical use. Throughout its 20-year history, CITRIS has developed technology solutions to respond to disasters — including earthquakes, wildfires, and floods — building resilience in California and beyond.

About CITRIS
The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty,  researchers, and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners. For more information, see CITRIS-UC.org.

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