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DBMI Contributing to COVID-19 Research

Apr 23, 2020

During these challenging times in dealing with the massive fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, our faculty are staying busy by contributing to the University of Utah’s research goal to create a brighter future for all of us. See what some of our faculty are doing:

  1. The translational research group has started two projects to address the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the projects, funded by the University of Utah Special Emphasis: Emerging COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 Research seed grant program, leverages our previous work with the SpatioTemporal Human Activity Model (STHAM), which models significant and acute variations in exposure over small spatiotemporal scales. STHAM simulates activity and location trajectories on a per-person basis over geographical areas using empirical data sources such as the American Time Use Survey and US Census data. We used STHAM to predict particulate matter exposure allowing the development of stochastic models of exposure patterns and records for groups of individuals exhibiting similar activity behaviors. We propose to extend this work to model COVID-19 exposure, spread, and mitigation. Julio Facelli and Ram Gouripeddi are collaborating with Kathy Sward (Nursing), John Horel (Atmospheric Sciences), and Christopher Cambron (Social Work) in this project. In another project, funded by the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science, we will use 3D Protein Structure prediction to characterize the structural variation of ACE2 receptors in the general population and relate these variations to racial and geographic variation of COVID-19 infection presentation. In this work, we are collaborating with researchers at the University of Buenos Aires.
  2. Reimagine EHR

Ken Kawamoto and his colleagues including Phillip Warner and David Shields are working with MDCalc, which is used by >1.75 million medical professionals every month in 200+ countries and territories, to disseminate an EHR-integrated COVID-19 Toolkit for free.  This tool is already available on the App Store for the Epic EHR system, which is the most widely used EHR system in the U.S. and in use by University of Utah Health.

Guilherme Del Fiol and NLM postdoc fellow Peter Taber are collaborating with  Catherine Staes (Nursing), as well as Roberto Rocha and Saverio Maviglia (Harvard University / Semedy) in the analysis of COVID-19 guidance disseminated to various stakeholders through international, Federal, State, County, and institutional channels. The goal is to inform the design of information retrieval tools to help disseminate healthcare and community guidance in the advent of infectious disease outbreaks.

Ken Kawamoto, Guilherme Del Fiol, and Tom Reese are collaborating with Dan Malone (Pharmacy) and investigators from Arizona University and Banner Health on a supplement proposal to AHRQ. The proposal is focused on the dissemination of an EHR SMART on FHIR app for drug-drug interactions involving hydroxychloroquine and increased risk of arrhythmia (prolonged QTc).

  1. The widespread adoption of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in recent US history, with the potential long-term psychological consequences for individuals and society not well understood. With this work, Mike Conway will use social media (Reddit) as a resource for investigating psychosocial stressors associated with COVI-19 social distancing, with a view to reliably identifying major causes of psychological distress and ascertaining how to mitigate them.

Other Exciting Things Happening in the COVID-19 Space

John Hurdle has included a COVID-19 assignment for the students in his Clinical Natural Language Processing class he is teaching online. It immerses his students into a real-world, data+noise intense space. Students process a random selection of COVID-19 article abstracts culled from over 13,000 (and counting) maintained by Dimension/Data Science. For those of you contemplating research in the COVID space, please do look at these NIH data resources. Pretty amazing collection.