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Our faculty are working at the leading edge of COVID-19 research, from basic science to better understand the molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2, to development of rapid diagnostics and therapeutics, to research on and statistical modeling of the population burden of SARS-CoV-2, telemedicine, and broader impacts of SARS-CoV-2 and related societal changes on education and management of other health conditions, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Some highlights are provided below:

Safe Campus Initiative

Drs. Arthur Reingold and Maya Petersen are leading an initiative to establish a system to keep the UC Berkeley campus and surrounding communities safe to facilitate the reopening of the university this fall. The project will test at least 4,000 students, staff, and faculty at UC Berkeley; estimate the incidence of new infections of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19); discover who remains at risk of infection and why; develop strategies for how best to mitigate this risk; and allow campus to create effective systems to track potential infections. The team will work with local public health systems, including the City of Berkeley’s Public Health Division, to effectively prevent and control ongoing transmission as the economy reopens.

Molecular Science

  • ViralALERT was born out of the Oakland Genomics Center (, a shared laboratory space for biologists and biotech startups. Together with collaborators at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health (Julia Walsh, MD), in Chile (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) and France (Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) and Hôpital Saint Louis) a RT-LAMP based test was developed for the simple detection of SARS-CoV-2. The variation of this well-established diagnostic method incorporates low-melting waxes for the stable packaging of reactions, a magnetic wand for the easy transfer of concentrated RNA samples and multiplexing by using sequence specific fluorescent reporters (QUASR). Methods have been outlined in detail in a recent publication in Viruses available here.
  • Drs. Sarah Stanley and Fenyong Liu are working with labs across the UC Berkeley campus to utilize the Biosafety Level 3 facility and live virus infection models for SARS-CoV-2 testing. 
  • Drs. Sarah Stanley, Martyn Smith, and Fenyong Liu are working on screening chemicals, compounds and known bioactives for efficacy in inhibiting replication of human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. 

Clinical Trial Innovation

Dr. Veronica Miller and The Forum for Collaborative Research have created a cross-Forum initiative focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug development and how to meet these current challenges by innovatively building a more efficient, patient friendly clinical research model for the future.

COVID-19 Surveillance and Modeling

  • Drs. Lisa Barcellos and Eva Harris are working on the East Bay COVID-19 Study, a large Bay Area surveillance study for SARS-CoV-2 in the asymptomatic population, in collaboration with other UC Berkeley Public Health faculty, the Innovative Genomics Institute and UC San Francisco BioHub colleagues.
  • Dr. Maya Petersen is working on a web-based application that provides short-term projections of numbers of COVID19 cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator needs, as well as longer term possible scenarios under public health interventions designed to reduce transmission. She is also working closely with the city of San Francisco to apply these methods to citywide data to help guide the local COVID-19 response. 
  • A collaboration including Drs. Justin Remais, Joseph Lewnard and colleagues is developing simulation and computational approaches to design optimal surveillance strategies to detect, estimate the burden of, and understand the effects of mitigation efforts against SARS-CoV-2; the team is also engaged in research to understand the effect of school closures on transmission of COVID-19 in the Bay Area.
  • Drs. Jade Benjamin-Chung, Jack Colford, Alan Hubbard and Art Reingold are working on estimation of SARS-CoV-2 case counts correcting for bias due to incomplete testing and imperfect test performance.
  • Drs. Hammond, Nicas, Noth, Perttula, and Messrs. Kado, Nguyen, Perrino are measuring aerosol dynamics within campus elevators to understand how long aerosol particles remain in the air in elevators. This work will support development of an interactive decision tree model to inform facilities management decision makers about SARS-CoV-2 exposure reduction.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Drs. Carisa Harris-Adamson and Sadie Costello are working on effectiveness and efficacy of screening, and appropriate recommendations regarding personal protective equipment for essential workers (such as in grocery, warehousing, public transit, social services).
  • Drs. Fenyong Liu and Sangwei Lu are working with colleagues in UCB College of Engineering and in UCSF to develop novel methods/devices for decontamination of personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. N95 face mask). 
  • Berkeley Public Health professors and doctoral students are collaborating with a multi-institutional N95 Decontamination Research Group to publish scientific evidence for N95 mask decontamination and mitigate severe mask and PPE shortages.

Machine Learning/AI

  • Dr. Ziad Obermeyer is developing work leveraging machine learning to understand SARS-CoV-2 deterioration in hospital settings.

Societal Impacts, Community Engagement and Action

  • Drs. Hector Rodriguez, Steve Shortell, and Amanda Brewster are developing work on how to improve the implementation and impact of telehealth for low income populations dealing with chronic conditions in the context of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Dr. Emily Ozer is working with local school districts to engage youth leaders and researchers to help mitigate the negative impacts of SARS-CoV-2 related school closures on education, equity, and mental health.
  • Dr. Coco Auerswald is developing work to inform policy approaches to SARS-CoV-2 among homeless populations, considering the importance of addressing basic needs in this vulnerable group.
  • Drs. Jennifer Ahern and Corinne Riddell are developing work on the impacts of SARS-CoV-2 and related societal changes on different forms of violence (in communities, in families and self-directed).

Research Development

  • The Research Action Team is continuously gathering and synthesizing guidance on research related to Covid-19 from different parts of the Berkeley campus, and from UCOP.
  • Tue$day Top Tip$ distribute the latest opportunities and guidance to the research community at Berkeley Public Health.
  • Discussion forums have been launched for researchers with common areas of interest around COVID-19. Please reach out to Lauren Goldstein if you are interested in engaging in ongoing discussions or in initiating a new discussion

More information on all of these research development materials and activities can be found here