CIT RESEARCHERS RESPOND TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC
In March, 2020, the CIT Research Office set up a COVID-19 Research Solutions Group on Microsoft Teams and invited a multidisciplinary cohort of experienced researchers to join. The aim was simple – to develop solutions to problems posed by the virus, whether that was related to the physical, mental or economic health of the region and beyond. The group meets weekly and takes an open-innovation approach where brainstorming is the key to success. The somewhat unstructured format to meetings encourages the circulation of ideas from early-stage to advanced, with few practical limits to the scope of the discussion. This has led to the development of a number of lines of research and a number of papers submitted for international peer review.
Examples of ongoing research projects include:
The All-Ireland Self-Reported Map (Covid19Map.ie)
Summary: An app that uses self-reporting and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor existence of COVID-19 on all-Ireland basis. Can also be used on a university-level scale.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Monitoring presence amongst individuals and clusters, which will be helpful in contact tracing.
CoVent-19: Comprehensive Ventilation Strategies Assessment Platform for COVID-19
Summary: A tool to enable users to determine the optimum natural ventilation strategies for their building/room, to minimise the pooling of virus particles. Practical applications in universities.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Suppressing the spread by minimising the viral load which pools indoors.
Summary: A system to automatically record the temperature of individuals in nursing home environments through non-contact imaging and facial recognition.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Monitoring presence amongst individuals and clusters, with a focus on care homes. Can also be considered for universities.
Making Aerosol Safety Known (MASK)
Summary: Using photonics and astrophysics to accurately measure the distribution of microdroplets penetrating masks composed of commonly available materials.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Suppressing transmission by identifying which common mask materials work best. Important for indoor working, including education settings.
Urgent Response Technology Alliance (URTA)
Summary: A tripartite collaboration between Cork University Hospital, CIT and local companies combining biomedical, clinical, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and manufacturing expertise to prepare for further or enhanced COVID-19 activity.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Rapid coordinated response to the needs of the healthcare and associated sectors. Uses what we have learned to date to control the virus in the future.
Image Based Pervasive Monitor and Management (IBPMM) Platform for COVID-19
Summary: AI and machine learning to automatically analyse x-ray and chest CT images to assist with the monitoring and detection of COVID-19.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Monitoring presence amongst individuals.
Supply chain disruption and risk management in a pandemic
Summary: This research seeks to study how Irish organisations have been responding to the challenge presented by Covid-19 and to identify best practice models that companies can follow to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and future disruptive events.
Addresses COVID-19 by: Providing resilience for companies faced with supply chain disruption
RESEARCH WHICH HAS ALREADY MADE THE HEADLINES
Developing reagent in effort to ease COVID-19 testing delays
Laboratories around the world - including in Ireland - were concerned about supplies of lysis buffer which, while only used in tiny quantities, is a critical component of the entire COVID-19 test process. The agent not only strips the virus to be analysed from the respiratory secretions in the test sample but it also renders the highly infectious viral agent safe in a laboratory environment.
Dr Brigid Lucey of CIT, who is also President of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine, led a group of Irish scientists from Cork Institute of Technology, University College Cork, Cork University Hospital, Teagasc, University of Limerick and the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in developing a formula and producing the component in Ireland. The group worked collaboratively to develop the formula which can be mass produced and was quality approved by medical scientists who are testing for COVID-19. The collaborative effort was aimed at facilitating the desperate effort by Ireland and other countries around the world to test for COVID-19 in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for controlling the pandemic. Dr Brigid Lucey and her team’s success in producing the lysis buffer allows countries to take control of the coronavirus testing process .
Defining NSAI Standards for Barrier Masks
In response to a request from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and in the light of many Irish manufacturing companies trying to change their production lines, National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has developed this Specification Written in Fast Track (SWiFT) to address an urgent need for a consensus-based specification for non-medical and non-PPE masks (barrier masks) for the general public . Used in conjunction with relevant public health advice, these barrier masks may contribute to the prevention of the spreading viral (e.g., COVID-19) infections.
Dr Niall Smith (Head of Research), Prof. Roy Sleator, Department of Biological Sciences and Centre for Research in Advanced Therapeutic Engineering (CREATE), Dr Steven Darby, Centre for Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis (CAPPA), and Alan Giltinan, CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory contributed as experts in the development of the document. As a result of his significant contribution to the document, Dr Steven Darby was appointed to the Irish delegation to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), currently developing the CEN Workshop Agreement for Community Face Coverings.