McDonnell Academy supports COVID-19-related global research

Washington University in St. Louis’ ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic is multifaceted and continues to evolve. It has taken campus, community and global approaches and includes interdisciplinary research from expert faculty members across the university.

To help address the international social, economic and public health ramifications of the outbreak, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy recently awarded $250,000 in seed grants to kick-start research projects led by Washington University faculty members and their international collaborators.

The call for proposals was met with a strong response: 34 teams from six of the university’s schools — with collaborators from 23 international partner institutions — presented projects for consideration. Eleven ultimately were chosen and received awards of up to $50,000. The projects will explore ways to address the global pandemic, but also help further solidify relationships forged between researchers at Washington University and their colleagues around the world.

“COVID 19 has been one of the most disruptive forces the world has experienced in decades,” said Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs. “Our faculty were eager to tackle the multitude of problems, in collaboration with experts from across the globe, but needed some immediate resources to get started. Thanks to the generosity and foresight of Bethany and Bob Millard, the McDonnell Academy was able to provide the support needed to begin this very important work. The research is expected to yield insights to address the current problems.”

The Millards served as chairs of the Parents Council, Washington University’s undergraduate parent leadership group, this past academic year.

The funded teams now will get to work tackling far-reaching COVID-19-related issues, including the pandemic’s impact on the retirement process in the United States, South Korea and Australia; HIV care in Ghana, Brazil and the United States; and intimate partner violence in St. Louis, Uganda and Chile. The teams expect to gain more insight into these problems by studying the phenomenon in multiple countries and by drawing on top experts from around the world.

Indira Mysorekar, the James P. Crane Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the School of Medicine, is leading one of the funded teams. Her project will focus on how COVID-19 affects pregnancy in both the United States and Brazil.

“We are happy to receive funding from the McDonnell International Scholars Academy to support our work on addressing this highly significant issue, namely, the impact of COVID 19 on pregnant women and their developing fetuses or newly born babies,” Mysorekar said. “Our goal is to provide high-quality data regarding the mechanisms by which COVID-19 increases women’s risk for pregnancy complications, and provide a platform to design rigorous studies to assess treatment strategies to prevent those complications in COVID-19-infected women.”

Learn more about all of the winning teams on the university’s global website.

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