Supporting COVID-19 Research

Supporting COVID-19 Research

Caltech is a community of extraordinary scholars who are dedicated to solving the most difficult scientific problems. As an institution, we are distinctively collaborative, nimble, and willing to take big risks where there is potential for transformational discovery.

Across disciplines, Caltech scientists and engineers have mobilized rapidly to retool their work in the face of the current pandemic. These new initiatives span a continuum from basic science to diagnostics, tracking, therapeutics, and vaccines—all with the goals of fighting COVID-19 and preparing society to address future pandemics.

Several of these innovative projects are detailed below. We invite you to explore, and to invest in world-changing research at Caltech.

Single Molecule FISH-based Method to Detect SARS-CoV-2 Viral RNA from Patients at
Unprecedented Scale and Speed

Long Cai
Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering

Professor Long Cai and his team are developing an innovative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)-based method to directly detect viral RNA without purification and biochemical amplification to significantly improve the scale and speed of detecting COVID-19 infections. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $300,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Noëlle Gervais, Senior Director of Development

Boosting the Innate Immune System to Fight SARS-CoV-2

Judith L. Campbell
Professor of Chemistry and Biology

Professor Judith Campbell is exploring how existing cancer therapeutics, which are known to have a stimulatory effect on type 1 immunity, could be repurposed to enhance the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $225,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Janny Manasse, Senior Director of Development

Social Distancing 2.0: Tools for Infection Risk Assessment Based on Combining Location Data with Wearable Sensor Data

Chiara Daraio
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics

Azita Emami
Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Executive Officer for Electrical Engineering

Tapio Schneider
Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist

Caltech researchers have imagined a way to achieve targeted social distancing with voluntary participation from only a small fraction of the population that improves automatically with wider participation and added information. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $300,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Laura Grinnell, Senior Director of Development

Engineering Synthetic RNAs as Interfering Anti-viral Therapeutics

Michael B. Elowitz
Professor of Biology and Bioengineering; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Executive Officer for Biological Engineering

Bruce A. Hay
Professor of Biology

Professors Michael Elowitz and Bruce Hay are engineering a synthetic therapeutic for SARS-CoV-2 based on defective interfering particles (DIPs), which are naturally occurring parasitic mutant virus variants that interfere with the lifecycle of co-infecting wild-type viruses. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $150,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Noëlle Gervais, Senior Director of Development

Flattening the Curve with Tech: Wearable Vital Sign Monitoring

Azita Emami
Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Executive Officer for Electrical Engineering

Chiara Daraio
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics

George Alba
Pulmonary & Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital; Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Professors Azita Emami and Chiara Daraio and their colleague Dr. George Alba (Mass. General Hospital) aim to change how we monitor patients with COVID-19- like symptoms by designing a small wearable device that is administered at the point-of-care (clinics and hospitals), and then allows the patient to be monitored at home. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $150,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Laura Grinnell, Senior Director of Development

Uncovering the Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Biosynthesis and Immune Evasion

Mitchell Guttman
Professor of Biology; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute

Professor Guttman aims to uncover the host proteins and messenger RNAs (mRNAs) that interact with the SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The team will use this information to understand how the virus hijacks the host cell machinery to produce its critical proteins and evade host cell immune responses to replicate and propagate. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $150,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Noëlle Gervais, Senior Director of Development

Characterizing the Role of ORF6 in COVID-19

André Hoelz
Faculty Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Professor of Chemistry

Professor Andre Hoelz, a leading expert in establishing the structure-function of the Nuclear Pore Complex (NPC), is investigating how the SARS-CoV-2 peptide ORF6 interacts with the NPC to hijack host cells and facilitate its own survival. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $350,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Janny Manasse, Senior Director of Development

New Method for High-Quality RNA Extraction to Enable Global Distributed COVID-19 Diagnostics

Rustem F. Ismagilov
Ethel Wilson Bowles and Robert Bowles Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering; Director of the Jacobs Institute for Molecular Engineering for Medicine

Professor Rustem Ismagilov is exploring how to overcome a major impediment to rapid, inexpensive, point-of-care testing – efficient RNA extraction that does not require a centrifuge – by exploiting RNA purification strategies recently developed by his lab.  Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $250,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Janny Manasse, Senior Director of Development

Developing a Breathalyzer Device that can Detect the State of COVID-19 Disease Early Through Infrared Spectroscopy

Axel Scherer
Bernard Neches Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics and Physics

The Scherer group is working on a breath analyzer that uses high-resolution infrared (IR) spectroscopy to uniquely identify specific molecules, whose relative levels are associated with infection. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $250,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Robin Gibbin, Senior Director of Development

High-density Cell/Virus Culturing Technology for Vaccine Production

Yu-Chong Tai
Anna L. Rosen Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; Andrew and Peggy Cherng Medical Engineering Leadership Chair; Executive Officer for Medical Engineering

Professor Yu-Chong Tai and his group are developing a high-density cell/virus culturing technology to rapidly meet global demand for vaccines and overcomes existing bottlenecks. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $100,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Robin Gibbin, Senior Director of Development

Developing a screening platform to identify therapeutics targeting SARS- CoV-2’s main protease Mpro

Jost G. Vielmetter
Director of Caltech Protein Expression Center

Dr. Vielmetter aims to develop a new screening platform that leverages the expertise of Caltech’s protein expression facility to identify small molecule therapeutics targeting Mpro, the main protease of SARS-CoV-2, and a key component of the viral life cycle. Read more

Philanthropic Goal: $100,000
Suggested minimum gift: $1,000

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For more information, please contact: Noëlle Gervais, Senior Director of Development