Research Still Going Strong

April 6, 2020

A message from Dr. Kunkel:

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter week three of the “ramp down” of on-campus Medical School research operations, I wanted to share with you that there is a significant amount of research activity going on, albeit in ways we may not have experienced before.

Let me offer a snapshot of what I’ve been seeing in the last couple weeks. Our research teams have routed 225 projects to the Grants Services & Analysis team for submission to extramural sponsors, and more than 200 investigators have been using DataDirect to continue their research remotely. 17 faculty teams performed the final “pitch” for their commercialization projects in Fast Forward Medical Innovation’s “fastPACE” program, remotely using BlueJeans.

All across what has basically become a virtual campus, researchers and staff are finding new ways to collaborate and continue forward progress on our very important work.

Not surprisingly, there has been an amazing – and inspiring – uptick in research activity related to COVID-19. To date, over 500 residual biospecimens from COVID-19 patients have been collected and will soon be available for collaborative research. The U-M COVID-19 Research Prioritization Committee is evaluating new projects every day, and highly ranked clinical trials are being fast-tracked by our Clinical Trials Support Office and their partners for launch and patient enrollment. For instance, Kevin Gregg, M.D., is already enrolling participants in a trial to determine whether Sarilumab, an Interleukin-6 inhibitor, is efficacious in reducing inflammation in COVID-19 patients.  Daniel Kaul, M.D., has launched two different trials examining the potential of Remdesivir to act as an effective antiviral therapy for COVID-19 patients. And our College of Engineering colleagues are collaborating with Michigan Medicine on projects like testing new methods for recycling N95 masks and understanding risks associated with using nasal cannula with COVID-19 patients.

I encourage you to learn more about these and other projects from the COVID-19 Research Index, a new webpage maintained by UMOR. Moving forward, this webpage will be a great resource for collaboration, as our entire research community looks for ways to contribute to the battle against COVID-19.

Each day brings important new information and strategies as we all continue to adapt to our new normal. On Tuesday, April 14 at 3:30pm, Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, myself, and other U-M research leadership will host a virtual Research Town Hall, where we’ll provide an update on the entire university research enterprise. CLICK HERE for login details. I encourage you to continue to monitor the COVID-19 websites maintained by the Medical School Office of Research and UMOR, as well as keep an eye out for our e-newsletter, Research News, which is now publishing every Wednesday. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to if you have any questions.

In ways large and small, we are ALL engaged in what some are calling the battle of our lifetimes. Our clinical colleagues are making herculean efforts on the front lines of that battle. But never forget - biomedical research has a huge role to play, as our faculty will be among many around the world who will identify, develop, and test treatments for this disease. The work we do here will lay the groundwork for the weapons required for future health crises and pandemics. Thank you for your hard work, your creativity, and your dedication.

Be well and stay safe,

Steven L. Kunkel, Ph.D.
Executive Vice Dean for Research, Medical School
Chief Scientific Officer, Michigan Medicine
Peter A. Ward Distinguished University Professor
Endowed Professor of Pathology Research