Through Innovation, Industry Engagement, and by Working With Our Communities, LSU Researchers Lead
LSU brings the entirety of its knowledge and broad research capabilities to bear on COVID-19. Through basic research and innovation; through industry engagement and collaboration with our communities; through caring for the sick as well as planning for the future—our experts are working to find solutions to this crisis. Below, you’ll find all of the stories on how LSU is fighting the pandemic.
Innovation — a new idea becomes a method or product
LSU is on the frontiers of research on how to combat the coronavirus and improving the health and wellbeing of all people in Louisiana and beyond. From how to formulate hand sanitizer to using artificial intelligence to discover new treatments for coronavirus and making it faster for online shoppers to buy what they need in a radically different market, LSU leads through Innovation.
Robert Rhoads, professor emeritus and former head of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at LSU Health Shreveport, holds seven patents related to mRNA, or messenger RNA, a string of biological code that is read by ribosomes to make proteins needed by the cell. For COVID-19 vaccines, mRNA can instruct the body to create fragments of proteins that look like the coronavirus spike protein. Rhoads’s inventions help stabilize the mRNA with certain modifications to its “cap” to make it more resilient.
LSU Finance Professors Uncover the Influence of Demographics and Governmental Restrictions on Social Distancing
Using cell phone location data, the researchers found demographic factors have largely driven social distancing behaviors which also have a tendency to cluster, creating hotspots of counties (and parishes) across the nation with low social distancing. The researchers suggest that encouraging voluntary distancing could be an effective and lower-cost alternative to governmental restrictions. Such encouragement could boost acceptance of restrictions and thus increased compliance with distancing rules, resulting in an even greater degree of distancing.
LSU, in partnership with a Louisiana sports technology startup, has developed new helmet cooling technologies to make customizable air circulation devices for athletic helmets with the goal of helping to protect the players from coronavirus. The improvements will help them stay cooler and more comfortable on the field, allowing the athletes to keep their helmets and additional COVID-19 safety gear on longer.
LSU College of Engineering and School of Veterinary Medicine researchers proved in East Baton Rouge Parish that testing wastewater for coronavirus can give a fairly accurate idea of infection rates in a population. Now, they will implement their innovative methods on LSU’s campus. The water is first pasteurized to kill bacteria, then RNA is extracted and a reverse transcription is conducted to obtain cDNA. Finally, the researchers perform a qPCR detection of SARS-CoV-2, the official name for coronavirus.
LSU Professors Stephania Cormier, a respiratory immunologist, and Rebecca Christofferson, an emerging viruses expert, have developed a saliva-based test to help track COVID-19 in K-12 school children and teachers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It only requires spitting into a tube, avoiding the discomfort of nasopharyngeal swabs deep inside the nose.
Last year, the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (LSU SVM) launched the Center for Lung Biology and Disease (CLBD) with more than $11.5 million in funding over five years from the National Institutes of Health. No one involved could have predicted then that just one year later, a deadly new coronavirus that attacks lungs and causes severe acute respiratory syndrome would spread throughout the world. CLBD scientists are now conducting research that leads to a better understanding of COVID-19 and helps address its deadly effects.
LSU Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Kisung Lee and LSU Environmental Sciences Professor Nina Lam are evaluating how people react to multiple sources of information. By looking at sentiment and language on social media, using artificial intelligence and geographical mapping, they aim to provide insight into effective public messaging by public health and government officials during a crisis and ultimately improve disaster resilience.
LSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor John Pardue is working with LSU School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Gus Kousoulas and other LSU faculty to test wastewater in East Baton Rouge Parish to see how many people are infected, and if the numbers are going up or down. This minimizes the challenges and biases of individual medical testing, including access to testing and adequate accounting for cases where people might be asymptomatic.
LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and ULM collaborative research shows promise of HIV drug as possible coronavirus treatment
The drug Nelfinavir mesylate (NFV, brand name Viracept), holds exceptional promise in limiting COVID-19 infections. Viracept was developed as a protease inhibitor in the treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
LSU innovators have developed a solution to a critical challenge facing health care providers in the COVID-19 crisis: how to increase the usability of their limited personal protective equipment, or PPE. To solve this problem, the LSU team developed an ultraviolet-light-powered mobile decontamination unit, or MDU, from a food warmer—the kind of tall metal box used to keep food warm at restaurants.
With support from the Louisiana National Guard, students and staff at the LSU Stephenson Disaster Management Institute have developed a tracking system for critical commodities and people traveling across the state.
LSU chemists help Louisiana prepare large batches of hand sanitizer—5,000 gallons to be exact.
LSU DeepDrug team uses artificial intelligence to discover new treatments for coronavirus, licenses technology to Skymount Medical
Although the team’s work so far has focused mainly on antibiotics and antimicrobials, the team is now working as quickly as they can to find new antivirals effective against coronavirus. Skymount Medical has partnered with the team for testing.
LSU Health Shreveport is among the first hospitals in the nation to offer inhaled nitric oxide to COVID-19 patients as part of an ongoing clinical trial. It is also the first in Louisiana to test plasma treatment. In further news, LSU Health Shreveport recently launched an Emerging Viral Threat Lab, which is working to obtain complete genome sequences of the viruses from samples to better understand the virus, enable molecular epidemiology work (such as contact tracing), and inform future vaccine efforts.
LSU School of Veterinary Medicine researchers are performing significant research on coronaviruses with the goal of producing a vaccine for testing that could soon be used for prevention of human cases of the virus.
LSU College of Science alumna and Baton Rouge native Darnisha Harrison is in the news for her incredible work in finding a drug that could stop COVID-19 in its tracks.
LSU disease ecologists Tad Dallas and Bret Elderd have been awarded a one-year, $200,000 grant by the National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Research program to model the intensity of epidemics or pandemics, like COVID-19, using a suite of disease models.
LSU meteorologist Paul Miller has received an NSF Rapid grant to look at how stay-at-home orders lessened air pollution in China from January to February and how this could impact global weather.
LSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Brian Wolshon is studying the impact of social distancing directives on human travel behavior, using highway volume data as a representation of personal activity and interaction.
LSU computer science professor Qingyang Wang is working on ways to combat Internet latency at a time when faster connection speeds matter greatly for both consumers and businesses.
Industry Engagement — partnering with businesses, organizations, and government for the greater good
LSU is on the frontiers of economic development and continues to partner with Louisiana businesses and organizations to help them leverage our knowledge for the greater good. We are currently involved with helping to produce personal protective equipment, or PPE, through our expertise in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, engineering, and medicine. We're also helping hospitals across the state with the COVID-19 testing effort, and educating emergency responders and law enforcement on how to best protect themselves and others. LSU leads through Industry Engagement.
LSU’s Stephenson Disaster Management Institute (SDMI) was entrusted last May with ramping up the state’s contact tracing program with a $1 million-dollar contract from the Louisiana Department of Health. Since then, its role has greatly expanded.
Dereck Rovaris, Vice Provost for Diversity at LSU, was recently appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to the new Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. In this interview, he talks about the importance of addressing health disparities across the state beyond the scope of the pandemic and how the passion he has for this work stems from a very personal point of view.
Together with industry partners, including Lamar Advertising, LSU is leveraging innovation, research, expertise, assets, and facilities into a single purpose-driven initiative—to protect Louisiana’s doctors and nurses by filling shortages in critical equipment, specifically gowns and face shields. The production is now up to 1,000 of each per day. (This effort started small, in a faculty member’s garage; see "Protecting our protectors," below.)
Governor John Bel Edwards Appoints LSU Vice Provost for Diversity to the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force
LSU Vice Provost for Diversity Dereck J. Rovaris Sr. will serve on the Community Outreach and Engagement sub-committee as COVID-19 has laid bare and further exacerbated the health disparities experienced by people of color and African Americans in Louisiana.
By working with universities across the nation, LSU is helping to lead an effort to share intellectual property that could provide solutions to COVID-19, quickly and at no cost.
LSU’s National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorism, or NCBRT/ACE, is rapidly developing online trainings to help emergency responders stay safe, prepared, and resilient in the context of COVID-19.
The LSU River Road Testing Lab, which was rapidly set up to help alleviate the burden of COVID-19 on Louisiana hospitals, can deliver test results in hours rather than days and has so far processed almost 4,000 tests for patients across the state.
An effort 10 years in the making of connecting seafood harvesters directly with customers finds new purpose.
Biological engineering senior Meagan Moore is working with medical physicist Wayne Newhauser, ER physician Tom Fox, and others in Newhauser’s garage to create face masks, face shields, and ventilator parts for nurses and doctors treating COVID-19 patients at LSU Health in New Orleans, including through 3D printing. The LSU Foundation recently launched a crowdfunding site to support their work. The effort has now expanded to the PMAC indoor arena (see "LSU kicks off..." earlier in this section).
The LSU National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorism, or NCBRT/ACE, is rapidly developing online trainings to help emergency responders stay safe, prepared, and resilient in the context of COVID-19.
Manship survey shows general Louisiana compliance with stay-at-home orders, support for measures to stem pandemic
“As Louisiana continues to weather the coronavirus outbreak, we think it is important to know how residents of the state are coping,” Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, said. “We hope the survey provides useful insights for state policy makers going forward.”
Community — being of service to each other in Louisiana
Across our campus, including while working remotely, LSU faculty, staff, and students are lending their minds, hearts, and hands in response to the urgent as well as long-term needs raised by COVID-19. Our scientists are looking out for Louisiana families and healthcare workers, whether on the front lines or in our backyards, and our researchers are keeping track of how this pandemic is challenging our culture and many ways of life. LSU leads by working with our Community.
LSU researchers have applied computational models to investigate infection rates in relation to social distancing measures in the U.S. “Our current analysis suggests that the face mask mandate is the most important policy for lowering the death count,” said Juana Moreno, associate professor in the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy and the Center for Computation & Technology.
Josh Grimm, Doris Westmoreland Darden Professor and newly named Interim Dean of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication, comments on past failings and future opportunities in how we talk about the risks of COVID-19. While he considers it “bonkers” that we watch shows like Grey’s Anatomy as if they’re documentaries, he doesn’t underestimate the power of fiction to help people get to the facts on the pandemic.
Existing data demonstrates that COVID-19 impacts Black Americans at higher rates than other racial groups, but the narratives and lived experiences of Black individuals navigating society, particularly as essential workers amid COVID-19, are often absent from conversations. David Stamps, an assistant professor in strategic communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication and a Reilly Center Research Affiliate, is working to change that.
Looking to Louisiana communities for good ideas—a grassroots approach for how to cope with the pandemic
LSU Sociology Associate Professor Frederick Weil and about 50 LSU students will conduct in-depth interviews with families and community leaders to source novel solutions for how to meet basic needs in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Their goal is to build a toolbox of ideas to help communities everywhere.
Manship survey will analyze long-term effects of pandemic anxiety on political attitudes and behaviors
“We will track the health and economic hardships Louisianans are facing as well as their emotional responses to the pandemic—their fears, worries and anxieties,” Director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab Michael Henderson said. “What are the long-run effects? How might they shape our trust in our government, or our feelings of connection to our own communities and to other communities throughout the state? Is this pandemic bringing us together or splitting us apart?”
Since late April, mobile COVID-19 testing vans have been going back and forth from the Emerging Viral Threat (EVT) Lab at LSU Health Shreveport to small towns and rural parishes all across northern Louisiana.
“We found that the small vessels and capillaries in the lungs were obstructed by blood clots and associated hemorrhage that significantly contributed to decompensation and death in these patients.”
If you’re wondering why grocery store shelves are empty and milk not always in stock, an LSU alumnus explains.
Helping to shape policy as fears of getting sick with the coronavirus, founded and unfounded, are changing people’s behaviors around the globe
LSU professor of sociology Wesley Shrum has been awarded a $100K grant from the National Science Foundation to study how people around the globe are responding to COVID-19.
LSU Eunice students staged a debate about vaccinations with "astonishing" outcomes—now they wonder what will happen if or when there is a vaccine for COVID-19
“We were hoping to change people’s opinions on this topic and sway them to see how important it is to vaccinate. It’s not like we expected a big change from when they came in to when they walked out, but we expected a change, and we did see a change, but not at all what we were expecting.”
The Manship School of Mass Communication continues to host a virtual event series on communications during COVID-19 and the recordings are available to watch online at any time. The series has so far touched on crisis communications, race, historical parallels in government information dissemination, effects on the sports industry, understanding public reactions to the pandemic, and more.
Media Literacy Endowed Chair Len Apcar developed a website together with his students, detectfakenews.com, which includes resources for distinguishing disinformation about coronavirus.
LSU professor Mark Benfield studies plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans and is now part of a new study in neighborhoods in New York City; Long Island; Providence, Rhode Island; Chicago; Tulsa; New Orleans; Seattle; San Diego; and Oahu in the US, as well as in Toronto; Hong Kong; Taipei; Shenzhen, China; and Canakkale, Turkey to track PPE litter around the globe.
Troy Blanchard, sociology professor and dean of the LSU College of Humanities & Social Studies, speaks in The Advocate about how social distancing due to COVID-19 goes against strong and deeply rooted social, cultural, as well as religious practices in Louisiana.
LSU psychology professor Anna C. Long offers guidance for parents and caregivers, and the LSU School of Education has also put together resources for children while remote learning. Meanwhile, the LSU AgCenter is bringing its 4-H youth and development program into members’ current schoolhouses: their homes.
Stephanie Eberts, assistant professor of professional practice in the College of Human Sciences & Education, offers guidance to people who find themselves working from home for the first time.
While museum tours and activities can’t happen in the galleries, LSU Museum of Art Educator Grant Benoit is adapting their ArtWorks program to continue reaching East Baton Rouge Parish students with lessons and supplies.
LSU Chemistry staff Attres Tagge and Vickie Thornton spearheaded a collection of 30,400 nitrile gloves, 1,200 disposable aprons, 600 disposable shoe covers, 50 disposable lab coats, 100 disposable lab pants and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, to donate to local hospitals. Medical students at LSU Health New Orleans are helping too.
The LSU National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorism, or NCBRT/ACE, ended up with 8,000 pounds of soap (200,00 bars!) sitting in surplus in Baton Rouge after a project they did in West Africa during the Ebola crisis. As a response to COVID-19, NCBRT/ACE paid to forward to the Louisiana Housing Authority and the Ascension, Livingston Parish, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Offices.
This Facebook post, “Wash your hands like you’re at a crawfish boil and have to take your contacts out,” had more than 1.25 million views, 100,000 engagements, and 10,000 shares before the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Louisiana.
Q&A: Protecting Yourself and Others
How do you protect yourself and others from contracting COVID-19? Joel Baines, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine dean, has the answer.
Q&A: Large Droplets
How does COVID-19 spread through the air? Joel Baines, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine dean, has the answer.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted via surfaces? Joel Baines, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine dean, has the answer.
Q&A: Masks and Handwashing
What are two easy ways to protect myself from COVID-19? Joel Baines, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine dean, has the answer.
RACE AND THE PANDEMIC
Join LSU scholars Roland Mitchell, Lori Martin, and David Stamps as they share their research as it relates to race and the pandemic.
UNITED IN THE FIGHT
Across the state, LSU is working together with passion and innovation to fight COVID-19.
STOP SURFACE CONTAMINATION
Learn how to prevent viral transmission via commonly touched surfaces in a new video by LSU NCBRT/ACE.
LSU partnered with the community to fill a critical gap in coronavirus testing capabilities.
HIV Drug Holds Promise
LSU collaboration has found an HIV drug that shows promise as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Coping With Quarantine
Our experts offer 12 mental health tips.
LSU group converts a food warmer into a mobile unit that can decontaminate PPE in minutes so hospitals can reuse them quickly.
PMAC FOR PPE
The PMAC has turned into a PPE production facility thanks to support from Governor John Bel Edwards, business partners and our amazing faculty and staff who are working hard to protect the state’s medical professionals.
LSU scientists are working to produce vaccines in our secure lab facilities for testing.
The LSU DeepDrug team is retraining their AI to discover new treatments for COVID-19.
LSU researchers along with other faculty and staff share their heartfelt encouragement: “We're all in this together."
LSU's College of the Coast & Environment, School of Public Health, and School of Veterinary Medicine explore connections between the environment and the coronavirus.
LSU's College of the Coast & Environment, School of Public Health, and School of Veterinary Medicine explore connections between the environment and the coronavirus.