Emerging NIH Funding Resources and COVID Opportunity Facilitators

April 13, 2020

April 13 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

As we begin a new week, I hope you have had time to find some rest and recuperation. The days and weeks ahead of us will be hard but we are ready and we will get through this.

Some good news arising from all this is that I have been hearing more and more how much our medical colleagues appreciate the jobs you have all been doing. They are reading the news about how difficult it is to get testing, and simultaneously seeing our department bring high-volume molecular testing onboard. Our test capacity has grown tremendously, and we are now working on ways to deploy that testing to maximum effect. I hope to be able to say more about these efforts soon.

It has also become clear that most of our fellow healthcare professionals don't have a clear idea of what goes on in laboratory medicine. I am seeing this as an opportunity for us to revamp our curriculum so that we emphasize the fundamentals of testing (including providing a basic understanding of how the laboratory works) at multiple levels in our various curricula.

This is an extraordinary time to be involved in biomedical research centered around coronavirus biology, mechanisms of pathogenesis, and immune responses. I want to amplify another message from our Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer around funding opportunities for COVID-19 research from the NIH, DOD, private organizations such as Harrington, etc. The Office resource webpage lists these many emerging opportunities here. Most of these opportunities will require teams to collaborate, and some will require thinking outside of the box, perhaps redirecting existing research efforts. To address this coordination, the CSO would like each department, center, and institute to identify a COVID Opportunity Facilitator (COF) (larger departments/divisions may have a couple or several COFs).  Please email the name(s) of your designated COF to, so they can organize a virtual committee. 

How essential the lab is during this crisis has been made abundantly clear. However, as the United States struggles to test people for COVID-19, academic laboratories that are ready and able to run diagnostics are not operating at full capacity. A recent Nature investigation of several university labs certified to test for the virus finds that they have been held up by regulatory, logistic and administrative obstacles, and stymied by the fragmented US health-care system.

I will not tire of reminding you of the importance of social and physical distancing to "flatten the curve" and prevent the virus from spreading. A recent video from the Ohio Department of Health visualizes the effectiveness of distancing with mouse traps and ping-pong balls and makes clear that "a little space makes us all safer together."

Two other resources that I found very helpful are a Buzzfeed article on eight ways you can help workers on the coronavirus frontlines right now and a seven-minute video featuring Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health’s Jessica Levy, who offers tips, tools, and healthy ways that anyone can use to manage their stress during the COVID-19 crisis.

Please continue to take care of yourselves because we are here for each other.

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine