Grant arms UNC-Chapel Hill with technology to accelerate COVID-19 research

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative recently awarded a $433,000 grant to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) for laboratory equipment that will accelerate research to address the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially saving lives. The equipment will go to the lab of Ralph Baric, PhD, the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Researchers in the Baric Lab are on the forefront of developing COVID-19 treatments. This grant represents a new collaboration between the West Coast philanthropic organization CZI and UNC-CH in search of a global solution to the pandemic.

The grant covers the purchase of a “liquid handler” — a robotic arm that can pipette fluids much more quickly and accurately than humans can — and supporting instruments, including another robot that detects active virus particles in samples and a machine to sequence RNA. Together, these tools increase the rate of testing compounds by 20-fold.

Ramping up testing speeds development of effective treatment. When dealing with rapidly spreading disease, Baric noted, that speed saves lives.

“This wonderful example of philanthropy in the midst of an expanding pandemic demonstrates the importance of getting people involved at all levels,” said Baric. “It’s a global pandemic that has touched us all, and CZI is giving back to global communities. I thank them deeply and hope they continue to support both basic and applied research into COVID-19. Not only is the research team benefitting from this gift directly, but we’ve been able to collaborate with others that CZI has supported. For us, it’s a true game changer.”

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