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BME faculty and students at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State have been heavily involved in finding solutions to a wide variety of pandemic issues: from developing face masks, to vaccines and ventilators. According to Dr. Paul Dayton, interim chair and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, the interdisciplinary foundation of the BME department is key, “Being able to pull people together from different disciplines and campuses helps us to solve complex and impactful problems.”

BME Teaching Assistant Professor Devin Hubbard has been leading a team of BME students and colleagues from FastTraCS to convert standard surgical masks into high protection face masks for frontline medical caregivers. Their final design is simple, yet it passed the N95 fit test: a 3D-printed frame that goes over an existing mask, which means only the frame needs to be manufactured at a low cost on a mass scale.

To develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine, BME Associate Professor David Zaharoff, with doctoral students Siena Mantooth, Maura Vrabel and postdoctoral fellow Khue Nguyen are using the principles of cancer immunotherapy. “It just so happens that some of the principles that we apply to amp up and direct the immune response against cancer are ones we think would be good to generate a vaccine against coronavirus,” said Zaharoff.

In the case of BME Assistant Professor Bill Polacheck, it wasn’t lab research, but his undergraduate Spring class that played a role in addressing coronavirus issues. “We talk a lot about flow, and how mass gets from one point to another, how it crosses the vasculature in the body and drug delivery. So there are a lot of questions that are popping up about coronavirus related to content in that class.” His students wrote design papers to creatively solve coronavirus problems, like ways to change resistance in ventilators so that one machine could serve two patients with different lung capacities. To read the full feature, visit Innovate Carolina here.

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