The Power of Partnership

Jeremy Wang operates the Opentrons OT-2 robot, purchased with gifts to the UNC COVID-19 Research Accelerator Fund.

With support from the UNC COVID-19 Research Accelerator Fund, Jeremy Wang, assistant professor of genetics in the UNC School of Medicine, and his team are identifying and tracking the variants emerging in our state and sharing their findings with the public from right here at Carolina.

The process includes clinical experts from UNC Hospitals and researchers from across Carolina — all working together to support the greater public health effort to quash the pandemic.

“It’s important to know how the virus is changing in as close to real time as possible so that we can get interpreted data out to people as quickly as possible,” said Wang.

Wang, whose research focuses on bioinformatics, metagenomics and genomic epidemiology, gets deactivated samples from COVID-19 tests processed by the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at UNC Hospitals. Through a process known as genomic sequencing, he identifies which variants are apparent and shares the aggregate data through a public database. Because of Wang’s efforts, policymakers can see these shifts quickly, allowing them to make better policy decisions.

The UNC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research launched the UNC COVID-19 Research Accelerator Fund in April of 2020 to provide critical, unrestricted support to Carolina’s world-renowned COVID-19 research teams. Since then, more than 200 donors have contributed to the fund. Collectively, these gifts — which range from $5 to $20,000 — have made a significant difference.

“If it hadn’t been for the Research Accelerator Fund, these data would not exist,” said Corbin Jones, a biology professor in the UNC College of Arts & Sciences working with Wang and his team.

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