Chancell-ing: No Summer Break for Seeking Critical Solutions

Man in laboratory gear holding COVID-19 test samples.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely turned our summer traditions upside down. The sky above Community Park would normally be bursting with its annual fireworks on the Fourth of July — but not in 2020. During this hottest time of year, local public pools are mostly empty and many summer camps are canceled.

Some days just feel sobering as we adapt to daily life during a pandemic. But, there’s something that gives me hope through all the disruption – and it’s happening right in our backyard.

UC Davis is determined to be part of the COVID-19 solution and help bring our communities back to normal. Our researchers are working with a profound sense of urgency to make breakthroughs in diagnostic testing, protective equipment and vaccines.

Here’s one recent example. You may have heard about a public-private partnership between UC Davis and the biopharmaceutical company Verndari Inc. Together, they’re working on technology that could deliver a COVID-19 vaccine through an adhesive patch — no shot needed.

UC Davis experts leading in many fields

Overall, UC Davis has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response since the pandemic reached the United States. In February, UC Davis Health made national headlines after treating the country’s first apparent case of COVID-19 that was acquired by community spread. This case was also significant in prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its testing protocols.

I’m happy to say the patient ultimately recovered and returned to her grateful family. This is a testament to the world-class quality of patient care at UC Davis Health.

I’m also proud that our university established itself as a leader in expanding COVID-19 testing. In April, UC Davis Health was designated by the State of California as one of two rapid testing hubs. Nam Tran, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, also represents UC Davis on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force.

Meanwhile, researchers at our College of Engineering and School of Medicine have joined forces. They’ve been working hard to develop technological innovations for producing ventilators, the 3D printing of test swabs and personal protective equipment.

Many questions remain

But for all the progress and promise, there’s no denying we live in anxious times with pressing questions.

How long will it take to develop a COVID-19 vaccine? How prepared are our health care systems in the face of virus surges? How reliable are COVID-19 tests?

On this end, UC Davis has been on a mission to keep our communities informed — both here in Yolo County and all around the world.

In April, UC Davis Distinguished Professor Walter Leal organized the first in a series of virtual COVID-19 symposiums. These online events have been a huge hit, with viewers tuning in from as far away as Brazil, India, Germany and throughout North America.

Thousands of participants have logged on to hear UC Davis experts lead discussions on some of the most pressing topics in COVID-19. Panelists have included pediatrician and State Sen. Richard Pan and Robert Gallo, the famed biomedical researcher who helped discover that HIV causes AIDS.

How to stay updated

In June, UC Davis launched a Deans Discuss podcast to share the latest in COVID-19 research and highlight the collaborations happening across our campuses. This weekly podcast is hosted by Allison Brashear, dean of the School of Medicine, and Michael D. Lairmore, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. I hope you’ll subscribe.

We also launched UC Davis LIVE: COVID-19 via FacebookTwitter and YouTube. This weekly video series features a variety of UC Davis researchers and covers such topics as COVID-19 transmission, testing and more.

This is all just a sample of how UC Davis is responding to the greatest public health challenge of our time. Every day brings a new prospect of discovery, and we’re eager to keep the public informed every step of the way.

In the meantime, let’s continue to look out for another and do all we can to beat this virus. Stay cool this summer and I wish you all the best of health and a happy Fourth of July.

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