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Basu examining flexible 3D sinus model with speculum

SDSU researchers respond to COVID-19 pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, SDSU researchers responded quickly to help improve personal protective equipment, to provide area businesses services to help reduce viral transmission and to understand how the novel coronavirus infects cells.

Assistant mechanical engineering professor Saikat Basu began working on a multi-institutional National Science Foundation-funded project to design and develop a mask with a reusable respirator that actively captures and inactivates the virus-carrying droplets. To help isolate and embed the droplets, the respirator filter design will be patterned after the nasal passages of animals that have a sensitive sense of smell, such as pigs and rodents.

Basu, shown at left, is using aerosol modeling to figure out the best possible respirator design, including doing 3D modeling of human breathing to determine which size droplets the respirator must capture. This data will also be useful in the continuing efforts to develop antiviral therapeutics and targeted intranasal vaccines.

To help South Dakota businesses protect their employees, researchers at the Economic Development Administration Center secured a $300,000 U.S. Department of Commerce supplemental grant to provide information and services aimed at improving indoor ventilation and disinfection strategies.

The team, led by EDA Center director Stephen Gent, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, can examine a building’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system and suggest ways to improve airflow and reduce viral spread, including using ultraviolet rays or antiviral aerosols to disinfect the return air.

Finally, chemistry and biochemistry professor Adam Hoppe, who is director of the South Dakota BioSystems Networks and Translational Research center, is identifying the genetic mechanisms through which the novel coronavirus enters and infects cells. What he learns through this NSF-funded project will help scientists combat COVID-19—and perhaps other emerging viruses.

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