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BGU Establishes COVID-19 Response Effort

BGU Establishes COVID-19 Response Effort

March 17, 2020

Medical Research

(Updated April 3) On March 12, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz announced the BGU COVID-19 Response Effort to harness the University’s vast brain power, research skills and ingenuity to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Prof. Daniel Chamovitz

“It is our moral obligation to contribute to coping with this pandemic,” Prof. Chamovitz said, urging BGU researchers to join the task force.

Prof. Chamovitz stated that the University would devote resources to bring the most promising projects to fruition.

“Since the outbreak of this coronavirus, it has become an international crisis that affects individuals, families, communities, and countries around the world,” Prof. Chamovitz says. “I am turning to you, our researchers, to make the coronavirus crisis and its repercussions your top priority, to be creative and practical in order to achieve significant contributions to the national and international challenges that stand before us.”

To date, more than 50 projects are underway. Among them are:

  • A 5-minute diagnostic test for people to take at home
  • Identifying antibodies that will inhibit viral infection
  • Self-sterilizing reusable face masks
  • Support for the elderly and other vulnerable populations
  • Testing the occurrence of COVID-19 in wastewater

Click here for a list and description of projects>> (Updated April 3)

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A prototype of the self-sterilizing air filter mask designed by BGU’s Dr. Chris Arnusch

As everyday life around the world has been affected, the effects of coronavirus extend beyond the search for a vaccine. In addition to the University’s virologists, BGU scientists and students are addressing the public health, public policy, engineering, information systems, economic, psychological, technological, tourism, and educational challenges.

Join the webinar on April 7 at 12:00 p.m. EDT: BGU Update on COVID-19 Research Breakthroughs>>

Listen to an interview with Prof. Golan Shahar, a clinical health psychologist and the Zlotowski Chair in Neuropsychology at BGU, and an adjunct professor of child study and psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. He has been studying the Israeli public’s response.

Prof. Angel Porgador, deputy vice president for research and development and head of the BGU COVID-19 Response Effort; Dr. Roi Gazit, Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics; and Avishay Edri, a Ph.D. student in the Shraga Segal department who initiated the volunteer testing project

More than 100 BGU scientists and graduate students are volunteering to increase blood sample testing for COVID-19 at the Clinical Virology Lab at Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva.

Dr. Roi Gazit, a researcher in BGU’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, says, “With many pairs of hands now available, we have quickly managed to reduce the backlog, easing the pressure on the lab team and, most importantly, quickly getting results to those who have been tested.”

AABGU Promises Financial Assistance

The BGU COVID-19 Response Effort will require financial support, and American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) announced its commitment to raise emergency funds, enabling BGU to participate fully in the world’s efforts at mitigation and containment.

“We support Prof. Chamovitz’s call to BGU scientists to pivot and put their efforts into fighting the medical and socio-economic consequences of this global pandemic,” says Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of  AABGU. “BGU is working to be the leading university in Israel in providing a comprehensive multidisciplinary coronavirus response effort.”

On Tuesday, March 17 , AABGU hosted a Ben-Gurion Briefing webinar featuring four leading experts on public health, pandemic emergency response management and immunology. Click here to watch.