As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to cause disruptions across the country, researchers at Saint Louis University are mobilizing to curb the pandemic and mitigate its effects.
More than 60 student and faculty researchers from 20 departments are studying this pandemic and its broader effects. Informed by our university’s Jesuit mission, these researchers are eager to serve those impacted by this pandemic, particularly those made most vulnerable during this difficult time.
The Race for a Vaccine
Hear three SLU researchers discuss how SLU’s world-class vaccine research and development is fighting disease around the world with the help of our local St. Louis community.
With over 30 years of experience and more than 7,000 square feet of research and clinical spaces, the Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) is home to the region’s leading experts in vaccine and treatment research. The CVD is also home to one of only 10 elite, NIH-funded Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Units (VTEUs) in the country.
As a member of the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), a newly organized network formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop and test vaccines and treatments in the fight against COVID-19, SLU is recruiting for large-scale vaccine trials that will enroll thousands of participants. The first of these trials began at SLU in August 2020 to test the effectiveness, safety and immune response generated by a vaccine co-developed by scientists at Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center. The second of these trials was announced in December 2020; The SLU Center for Vaccine Development will be a testing site for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 clinical research study, ENSEMBLE trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Janssen’s investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate, JNJ-78436735, also known as Ad26.COV2.S.
Researchers with the Center for Vaccine Development also conducted a study in March 2020 to test the safety and effectiveness of remdesivir in treating COVID-19.
Information on all of this research and more can be found at the link below.
Research to track the spread of COVID-19 and its broader effects is crucial in our response to the pandemic. Data gathered from this research can inform effective and equitable public health policy and highlight where best to focus resources.
SLU researchers from a variety of fields are tracking the spread of COVID-19, as well as related factors such as citizens’ mobility following the implementation and the lifting of stay-at-home orders, the location of infection hot spots, and the effectiveness of regional mask mandates. The SLU Geospatial Institute (GeoSLU) is leading these efforts.
More information on this research, as well as other COVID-19 geospatial research, can be found on our dedicated Tracking COVID-19 page at the link below.
The Rapid Response COVID-19 Seed Fund
With generous support from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, The SLU Research Institute established a Rapid Response COVID-19 Seed Fund in Spring 2020 to support faculty-led pilot projects related to coronaviruses and mitigating the pandemic's broader effects.
The Seed Fund empowered SLU researchers from a broad range of disciplines, from communication to psychology to immunology and more, to act quickly in confronting this multifaceted crisis. The Research Institute awarded nearly $300,000 from the Seed Fund in two rounds in May 2020 and June 2020.
A complete list of funded projects can be found at the link below.
A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic
Researchers from across the University are engaged in research and scholarship to improve our understanding of this pandemic and develop solutions. Below is a sample of the University's multidisiplinary approach to this vital work.
- In February 2020, Steve Rigdon, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, co-authored a new book entitled “Monitoring the Health of Populations by Tracking Disease Outbreaks: Saving Humanity from the Next Plague” with Ron Fricker, a professor in the Department of Statistics at Virginia Tech. Using a variety of examples throughout history, the book details how statisticians identify and track outbreaks, giving insight into how biostatisticians and epidemiologists can help end the spread of COVID-19.
- Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., professor of public health, and Tim Wiemken, Ph.D., associate professor from SLUCOR, are examining the timing and relationship of increased negative flu tests and influenza type illness (ILI).
- Lauren Arnold, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology, has undertaken educational efforts in local schools and university-settings focused on facts and transmission risks. She is developing a survey to examine knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and fears about coronavirus among student populations.
- SLU researchers and instructors are consulting with school districts, health care systems, response personnel and federal agencies advising them on incident management and the coordination of hospitals and Emergency Operations Centers around the Midwest. They plan to develop response guidelines for infection preventionists and health care epidemiologists and to partner with the CDC on their recommendations related to hospitals and first responder infection prevention.
- SLU researchers and instructors are assisting local public health agencies in their response to this pandemic by assisting at emergency operations centers (EOC), helping with data analysis, developing health communication messages and answering questions from the general public.
- Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, is serving on the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) COVID-19 Task Force that was recently established. Rebmann, who is also the associate dean for academic and faculty affairs in the College for Public Health and Social Justice and the director of the Institute for Biosecurity, and the other task force members recently developed a national survey for APIC members on the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in US hospitals. The survey found that nearly half (48%) of U.S. health care facilities are already out of or almost out of N95 respirators that are vital in the care of patients with COVID-19. Many hospitals also reported a lack of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
- Rebmann also presented an on-demand webinar from the American Nurses Association (ANA) that focused on the current PPE guidelines for supply optimization and how to maintain personnel safety. Register now and receive access to this online, on-demand webinar and view it anytime, anywhere.
- In February 2020, Wiemken and Ana Santos Rutschman, S.J.D., assistant professor in the Center for Health Law Studies, began the “Immunization Science and Policy Partnership at Saint Louis University.” Funded through a Spark Microgrant from the SLU Research Institute, the partnership aims to bring together experts working on topics at the intersection of vaccine science and policy. This work complements SLU’s internationally renowned vaccine development and clinical research. Though this project is still in its early stages, Rutschman and Wiemken are considering the COVID-19 pandemic as work on the project continues.
- Rob Gatter, J.D., professor in the Center for Health Law Studies, is serving on the St. Louis County Health Department COVID-19 Response Team. Gatter was named to the position by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page to assist the county health department with reviewing and drafting policies aimed at fighting the spread of COVID-19. Gatter is a nationally recognized expert in public health law and pandemic preparedness, including quarantine legality.
- On March 14, Gatter and Rutschman penned an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offering additional recommendations for formal quarantine orders during the coronavirus crisis.
- Cort W. Rudolph, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, is studying the impact of the pandemic on the workforce. An expert in industrial and organizational psychology, Rudolph is examining how the pandemic is shaping work-related processes, practices, and policies, including those related to job stress, occupational health and wellbeing, job insecurity, and more. Rudolph is also studying what this crisis means for the aging workforce and how this crisis is being framed in terms of “generations” and “generational differences.” He recently co-authored a paper on this topic which will appear in the journal Work, Aging and Retirement.
- Clinical psychologists at SLU have created a new hotline for frontline health care workers at SSM Health hospitals. The hotline will allow those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to care for their psychological and mental health during this time of pandemic. The hotline has been established by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience in SLU’s School of Medicine and the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences in partnership with Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute (SLBMI).
- The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored and exacerbated a variety of existing issues
regarding inequity. Black Americans are dying at higher rates compared to others diagnosed
with COVID-19. The Institute for Healing Justice & Equity at SLU is bringing together researchers, scholars, activists, health care practitioners
and community leaders to examine this problem. The Institute has launched "The Color of COVID," a webinar series to discuss the growing crisis and its impact on black Americans.
- The first session, entitled "Stopping the Trend," was facilitated by Keon Gilbert, Dr.PH., associate professor of behavioral science and health education and a co-founder of the institute, and brought together experts from a variety of fields to discuss the existing inequalities contributing to long standing health inequities and their relationship to COVID-19 and outline solutions and action steps that can be taken to stop the trend. The session can be viewed in its entirety here.
- The second session, entitled "Healing Justice Approaches to Self and Community Care," was facilitated by Kira Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and a co-founder of the institute, and highlighted practitioners who have taken innovative approaches to healing justice before and during the pandemic. The session can be viewed in its entirety here.
- Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H., professor of Law and executive director of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, is examining how structural racism has caused racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates. Yearby recently co-authored an article on this with Seema Mohapatra, J.D., M.P.H., of Indiana University entitled "Law, Structural Racism, and the COVID-19 Pandemic" which was published in the June 2020 edition of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences.
Yearby and Mohapatra also recently published a piece for the Health Affairs Blog detailing structural disparities within the workplace that disproportionately affect women of color and low-wage workers, particularly within the home health care and meat-packing industries. Yearby and Mohapatra were then interviewed by Public Health Law Watch for their #COVIDLaw Briefing concerning vulnerable workers in the time of COVID.
In the News
In addition to their research, subject matter experts at SLU are sharing their expertise with the public.Read More News from SLU Research on COVID-19
- SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development Begins Recruiting Participants for Phase 3 COVID-19 Investigational Vaccine Clinical Trial
12/14- Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development will be a testing site for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 clinical research study, ENSEMBLE trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Janssen’s investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate, JNJ-78436735, also known as Ad26.COV2.S.
12/11- Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., professor of public health and associate director of the Geospatial Institute at SLU (GeoSLU), was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a rise in COVID-19 cases in St. Louis.
- SLU Communication Professor Studying Credibility of COVID-19 Information, Impact on Health Behaviors
12/07- Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, staying up-to-date with reliable information has become essential. Jennifer Ohs, Ph.D., associate professor of communication, is analyzing how people are getting their information during the pandemic.
12/04- Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., professor of law and executive director of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, was interviewed by the Kansas City Star about hospital workers' demands for a $15 minimum wage and better coronavirus safety in their workplace.
12/01- Sharon Frey, M.D., clinical director of the Center for Vaccine Development, was interviewed by USA Today about the progress being made on COVID-19 vaccines and strategies for distribution. Frey previously served as Principal Investigator of a study testing the effectiveness, safety and immune response generated by a vaccine co-developed by scientists at Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center.