Three research projects targeting COVID-19 are now going on through the SimCenter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The projects are searching for methods to make detection of the virus simpler and also to find ways to combat it.

Along with providing $20,000 each for two of the projects, the SimCenter’s supercomputers are capable of quickly crunching massive amounts of data. They also can create computer-based models of the research’s biological components down to the molecular level.

The goal of research being done by Soubantika Palchoudhury, assistant professor of civil and chemical engineering and faculty advisor to the UTC chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, is to develop a test for COVID-19 that is sensitive enough to detect the virus on a molecular level while also being cost-effective with an easy-to-use procedure.

“The project lies at the interface of nanochemistry, biology and computation,” she explained.

The project, one of the two that received $20,000, is targeted for completion by October, she said.

Michael Danquah, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Chemical Engineering program, is conducting research into the unique characteristics of certain proteins in the novel coronavirus.

The goal is to develop “probes” that will use these proteins as targets to diagnose COVID-19 and provide targeted treatment opportunities.

“The project is in its preliminary stage at the moment, but we hope to make considerable strides by the end of summer,” Danquah says.

The results of this research will be an integral part of proposals that will be submitted to the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation for possible funding, he added.

The third project began in 2014 and has been examining ways in which airborne particles—including potentially infectious ones— enter the lungs and are deposited there, said Abi Arabshahi, research professor in the SimCenter.

A few months ago, the research shifted into new computer modeling of the human respiratory system in relation to COVID-19, potentially finding methods to speed up the diagnosis of the virus, he said.

The goal is to give such detailed information to medical personnel in order that they will know how much, when and where an aerosol drug can be most effective in treating respiratory illnesses, he explained.

“The key technical advance here is that a process that can take a week or more to produce—based on the existing know-how and advanced simulation codes—will be sped up significantly to make the results much more timely for patient care,” Arabshahi said.



Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call 423-425-4363.

Shawn Ryan is the executive staff writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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