CBE COVID-19 Response

The Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department faculty and alum are actively working to help with the COVID-19 response. Some of the efforts being carried out are listed below.

If you are an alum or student of the department helping in the COVID-19 effort, we would love to hear about it.

Current Efforts (Updated 4/27/2020)

Check out the story done by Channel 3 News on Prof. McCutcheon’s alternative ventilators.

Data Visualization

Dr. Jack Prior (BS ChE ’82)

Dr. Jack Prior, a member of the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board and the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers, has been using his evenings to generate and share data visualizations to help people understand the seriousness of the epidemic, as well as to forecast the impact of social distancing on cases and hospitalizations. Jack works for Sanofi, which is pursuing four therapies for COVID-19, including two vaccines and a monoclonal antibody therapy to treat cytokine storm in severely impacted patients, along with donating 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to 50 countries around the world.

Jack has created a web app (http://app.jackprior.org) that also runs on smartphones that allows anyone to visualize the trends in total cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. He created this in part to help researchers at Tufts Medical Center forecast their hospital admissions.

Distributing Hand Sanitizer to Vulnerable Populations

Ms. Naomi Adler (BS ChE ’15)

Ms. Naomi Adler works at the Litchfield Distillery normally making bourbon, gin, vodka, and a variety of other drinks. She and her colleagues, however, have re-tooled their efforts to make hand sanitizer following WHO guidelines. Ms. Adler is responsible for increasing the efficiency and yield of alcohol production, as well as creating the sanitizer by combining high proof ethanol with glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and something to denature the ethanol. They then distribute the sanitizers to first responders, essential workers and the general public free of charge.

Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon

We are formulating hand sanitizers for distribution to local senior living communities and health care facilities. We are running a chemical drive at the University for the basic materials and are seeking donations of bottles and chemicals (IPA, glycerine, carbomer (gelation agent), ethanol, hydrogen peroxide). We will also eventually need help in bottling. Please contact us if you would like to get involved.

Mask and Respirator Testing

Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon

Our lab will soon have National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) certified testing capability for evaluating masks and ventilators for n95 performance. We will also be testing new masks and materials entering the market for use against the n95 standard.

Modeling SARS-CoV-2 For Antiviral Identification

Prof. Ranjan Srivastava

We recently received support from the National Science Foundation to create a mathematical model of how SARS-CoV-2 infects people. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. The benefit of this model is that it will help researchers determine which FDA-approved drugs or combination of drugs can best treat COVID-19. Further information may be found here.

Surface Treatment of Surgical Masks

Prof. Luyi Sun and Prof. Monty Shaw

The goal is to create face masks which are properly surface treated that can inhibit the Coronavirus. Such face masks are expected to exhibit improved protection against the Coronavirus, as well as potentially tentatively replacing N95 masks (which are in short supply) for medical and health care personnel. We also aim to incorporate such a surface treatment process into future standard face mask manufacturing process.

PPE Sterilization and Reutilization

Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon
This early-stage project involves two company partners interested in exploring new approaches to sterilizing PPE for eventual reutilization. We will combine this work with our mask and respirator testing capability to determine how sterilization and reutilization impact mask performance.

Rapidly deployable emergency ventilators

Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon

Our lab has constructed a basic ventilation device which compresses an ambu bag to provide breathing aid to those in respiratory distress. Our first generation ventilator is shown in operation and described in a YouTube video here. Our second generation version will be more robust and have additional features to aid in monitoring and failure prevention. We are now seeking manufacturing partners that, if needed, could help us assemble and distribute these on short notice if there is a surge at our State’s hospitals.