KU News: At-home COVID-19 test developed at KU moves toward production

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At-home COVID-19 test developed at KU moves toward production
LAWRENCE — With the United States facing another surge of COVID-19, an at-home test for the virus developed by researchers at the University of Kansas is moving toward commercial production. The aim is to launch the product in early 2022. “They’re building the handheld instrument right now,” said KU faculty member Steven Soper. “Following our successful proof-of-concept testing as a result of funding from the NIH, it will go into production and marketed by BioFluidica.”

Tickets now available for Self Graduate Fellowship Symposium Lecture featuring Ibram X. Kendi
LAWRENCE — Tickets to the Self Graduate Fellowship’s Symposium lecture featuring Ibram X. Kendi are now available for University of Kansas students and will be available to the general public starting Friday, Sept. 17. The bestselling author of “How to Be an Antiracist” will be joined on stage by Kevin Willmott, KU professor of film & media studies and Oscar-winning film director and screenwriter.

KU School of Social Welfare will host Grand Challenges for Social Work event series
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare’s Center for Community Engagement and Collaboration will host a virtual series of interactive panels highlighting current school research and community practice for social work professionals and stakeholders across Kansas. The free, public series will open Oct. 7 with a discussion of the effects of COVID-19 on the long-term care workforce.

KU announces recipients of Keeler Intra-University Professorships for 2021-2022
LAWRENCE – Five University of Kansas professors have been selected to pursue special projects designed to develop their scholarship in a field while also fostering collaboration at KU. Projects will include interdisciplinary efforts to address the state’s pressing water problems, improvement of imaging techniques for pediatric populations who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes and a public awareness project about addiction through the use of art.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, 785-864-2936, [email protected], @kuengineering
At-home COVID-19 test developed at KU moves toward production
LAWRENCE — With the United States facing another surge of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant, an at-home test for the virus developed by researchers at the University of Kansas is moving toward commercial production. The aim is to launch the product in early 2022.

“They’re building the handheld instrument right now,” said Steven Soper, a Foundation Distinguished Professor with appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry. “Following our successful proof-of-concept testing as a result of funding from the NIH, it will go into production and marketed by BioFluidica.”

Soper’s team, which includes a half-dozen graduate students in bioengineering and chemistry, has been working on the project since early June 2020. They have been repurposing “lab on a chip” technology he had previously developed to give doctors simple tools to more easily and quickly diagnose conditions ranging from stroke to a variety of cancers so that it could be used to select SARS-CoV-2 virus particles directly from saliva samples and count them one at a time. At-home users would put saliva on the test chip, then use a hand-held electronic reader — about the size of an iPhone — to analyze the results. The whole process would take around 15 minutes.

Soper’s group, including his private company, BioFluidica, is working with an undisclosed company that has experience in large-scale medical manufacturing to produce the chip consumables and the handheld units. Users would be able to buy a test for about $10 and the reader, which can be reused many times over, for about $50. The project will also require emergency use authorization from the FDA. Documentation for this handheld will be submitted to the FDA in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The emergence of the Delta variant means testing will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future, Soper said. His team is already working on adapting the test to detect Delta and other changes to the virus.

“We’re making sure we’re ready to handle any variant that may be generated and that may pop up in the United States,” he said. “Not everyone’s getting vaccinated. There’s always going to be a population that won’t be vaccinated. What happens is, if they get infected, that means the virus can change — and they can reinfect people, even people who have been vaccinated.”

Soper said the new device could eventually be used to quickly diagnose other illnesses, including influenza and other viruses, as well as bacterial infections. But COVID is the most pressing issue at the moment.

“This is always a moving target with COVID-19,” he said. “Everyone needs to be careful.”

Soper earned his doctorate in bioanalytical chemistry from KU in 1989 and returned to the university as a faculty member in 2016. He brought along his company, BioFluidica, which previously created new products to help doctors test for various types of cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Funding to develop the COVID-19 test comes from the National Institutes of Health RADx Program.
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Contact: Michelle Compton-Muñoz, Madison and Lila Self Graduate Programs, 785-864-2434, [email protected], @Selfgraduate
Tickets now available for Self Graduate Fellowship Symposium Lecture featuring Ibram X. Kendi
LAWRENCE — Tickets to the Self Graduate Fellowship’s Symposium lecture featuring Ibram X. Kendi are now available for University of Kansas students and will be available for others starting Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Kendi is a New York Times bestselling author, professor of history and international relations, and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. Kendi, one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist voices, will present “How to Be an Antiracist: A Conversation with Ibram X. Kendi” at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Lied Center of Kansas. There will be no virtual or recorded opportunity for the lecture.

Joining Kendi on stage will be Kevin Willmott, KU professor of film & media studies. Willmott, an Oscar-winning film director and screenwriter, is known for work focusing on Black issues including writing and directing “Ninth Street,” “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” and “Bunker Hill.” He collaborated with Spike Lee on “BlacKkKlansman,” for which they won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets are available for in-person pick up through the Lied Center of Kansas Box Office starting on the following dates.

1. Sept. 7: KU student ID
2. Sept. 14: Any KU ID
3. Sept. 17: General public

The Self Graduate Fellowship Symposium Lecture is sponsored by the Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship and held in partnership with the following units: Self Graduate Programs; Graduate Studies; Academic Success; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

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Contact: Melinda Lewis, School of Social Welfare, [email protected], @KUSocialWelfare

KU School of Social Welfare will host Grand Challenges for Social Work event series
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare’s Center for Community Engagement and Collaboration (CCEC) will host a series of interactive panels highlighting current school research and community practice in areas related to the Grand Challenges for Social Work, an initiative within the social work profession to champion social progress around a series of grand challenges that the profession works to influence.

The particular Grand Challenges highlighted in these events align with major scholarship initiatives within the social welfare school and critical concerns facing the larger society, including advancing long and productive lives, ensuring healthy development for youths and closing the health gap. These events will be held virtually to facilitate access for KU alumni and community stakeholders across the state. These events are free and open to the public, and participants will be able to receive 1.5 to 2 hours of CEUs for attending each event.

“As social workers, we are committed to advancing justice and building capacity to meet the grand challenges our society faces. Within the school, scholars, students and our community partners are pursuing scholarship and innovating practice to address these critical issues, in this especially crucial moment. These events give us opportunities to consider together — as scholars, practitioners and community stakeholders — where we are today and what we must bring to the future,” said Melinda Lewis, associate director of CCEC.

The first event examines new research from the school’s Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options (CRADO). CRADO scholars will share results from their study of the effects of COVID-19 on the long-term care workforce, and panelists will discuss the current state and future needs of these essential providers. The event will take place noon-1:30 p.m. Oct. 7. Carrie Wendel-Hummel, of CRADO, will open the conversation with response and discussion by Mickey Dick, Visiting Nurses Association, and Yvonne Love, Claridge Court, a Lifespace community. Participants who attend this session will walk away with a better understanding of the effects of the pandemic on the variety of long-term care options that seek to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities, as well as the policy changes and professional investments required for the future. Visit the event registration page to reserve a virtual seat.

The second event highlights the imperative of centering anti-racist approaches in child welfare policy and practice. From noon to 2 p.m. March 3, 2022, KU research faculty member Kaela Byers and several of the community partners whose work is integral to the social welfare school’s efforts with Kansas Strong for Children and Families and other child welfare scholarship will discuss strategies to center the voices of youths and families in child welfare research and policy. To ensure that participants can engage in meaningful conversation about the urgency of a commitment to racial justice in child welfare, the panel will be followed by facilitated breakout sessions. Participants who attend this session will learn more about how disaggregated data and explicitly antiracist inquiries can drive reforms to child welfare systems that meet this Grand Challenge. Visit the event registration page to reserve a virtual seat.

The third and final event in this series, “Grand Challenges for Social Work: Close the Health Gap,” is the culmination of this academic year’s cohort of the school’s Integrated Health Scholars program. On April 26, 2022, from noon to 2 p.m., a panel of speakers, including Teri Kennedy, KU professor of nursing; Michelle Levy, School of Social Welfare; and an alumnus of the Integrated Health Scholars program will discuss how interprofessional practice can expand access and quality in integrated health care and contribute to closing the health gap. Participants will discuss what the profession has learned about the “health gap” over the past two years, the policies and practices that have widened it, and the interventions that help to close it. Visit the event registration page to reserve a virtual seat.

Learn more about the Grand Challenges for Social Work national initiative on the Grand Challenges website.

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
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Contact: Evan Riggs, Office of the Provost, 785-864-1085, [email protected], @KUProvost

KU announces recipients of Keeler Intra-University Professorships for 2021-2022

LAWRENCE – Five University of Kansas professors have been selected to pursue special projects designed to develop their scholarship in a field while also fostering collaboration at KU during the 2021-22 academic year.

The following faculty members have been awarded Keeler Intra-University Professorships this academic year:

1. Amy Burgin, environmental studies and ecology & evolutionary biology
2. Ben Chappell, American studies
3. Trent Herda, health, sport & exercise sciences
4. Michael Krueger, visual art
5. Emily Witt, mathematics

Keeler Intra-University Professorships provide faculty members an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge of an academic specialty, to broaden or achieve greater depth in a defined field of study, or to achieve competence in a new area of scholarly endeavor. Their work should also lead to increased collaboration and synergy across disciplines.

Keeler Professorships have supported faculty development for tenured KU faculty since the early 1980s. Faculty members apply for the professorship with the endorsement of their department and dean. Selected faculty are relieved of departmental responsibilities for one semester, and their departments receive financial support to assist with meeting instructional needs. The Center for Faculty Development and Mentoring reviews applicants and selects recipients.

“The center’s mission is to help faculty develop rewarding careers at KU,” said Chris Brown, vice provost for faculty development. “The Keeler Professorship allows tenured faculty to collaborate across disciplines, which leads to groundbreaking work.”

The program is possible through a gift of the Keeler family in memory of W.W. Keeler, petroleum engineering alumnus and former president of the KU Alumni Association. Keeler served as president and chief executive officer of Phillips Petroleum Co. from 1967-1973, and he was principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1949-1975, a position he was originally appointed to by President Harry Truman.

About the recipients
Amy Burgin
Amy Burgin, associate professor of environmental studies and ecology & evolutionary biology as well as associate scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research, will spend the spring 2022 semester engaging in the vision of the original 2014 Water Resources Cluster hire to build connections between her research program and that of her water-focused colleagues in the School of Engineering and the Kansas Geological Survey. Her Keeler Professorship will support a research, teaching and DEIB collaboration with Amy Hansen, Admin Husic, James Hutchison and Joshua Roundy, assistant and associate professors of civil, environmental & architectural engineering, as well as Erin Seybold and Sam Zipper, assistant scientists in the Kansas Geological Survey. Building collaborative capacity and cross-unit student training opportunities will benefit KU’s research and education enterprise. It will also prepare the next generation of the Kansas water workforce to use collaboration to solve our pressing water challenge.

Burgin joined the KU faculty in 2016.

Burgin wrote in her application, “While we have great expertise in water now at KU, to fulfill the goal of ‘actionable scholarship,’ we must better understand each other’s research, think about the points of connection among our research programs, discuss strategies for interdisciplinary training of undergraduate and graduate students in our respective programs, all to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) among faculty, staff and students in our respective STEM fields. The Keeler Professorship is an excellent opportunity for me to strengthen my collaborative connections to other water researchers at KU.”

Ben Chappell
Ben Chappell, associate professor of American studies, will spend a semester during the 2021-22 academic year collaborating with Heather Getha-Taylor, professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration, to study intellectual history and current debates in administration and management theory, developing a new research direction into the overlapping and contrasting epistemologies evident in various sites of contemporary knowledge production. Chappell hopes to better understand the conceptual tools and forms of logic that tend to operate when trying to make an organization run. He will support Getha-Taylor and conversations with other members of the SPAA faculty.

Chappell joined the KU faculty in 2007.

“Most of my work has focused on Mexican-American studies and community-based cultural forms,” Chappell said. “The Keeler Professorship is an outstanding opportunity for me to step out of my intellectual comfort zone and do a deep dive into what the influential ideas and paradigms have been in the conversations around how to administer public organizations. It is a chance for me to tool up for a new direction in my research, and for the university to expand its research profile by allowing faculty the time and space to develop new directions for our work.”

Trent Herda
Trent Herda, associate professor of health, sport & exercise sciences, will spend the spring 2022 semester working with researchers and faculty at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition (CHLN) at KU Medical Center. His professorship will involve collaboration with CHLN members John Thyfault, KU professor of physiology, and Robin Shook, research assistant professor at Children’s Mercy, as well as the broader CHLN community, to develop competitive National Institutes of Health R01 proposals with mentorship provided by the CHLN. Herda aims to strengthen his research and expertise in glucose and lipid metabolism, physical activity and muscle lipid imaging techniques in pediatric populations who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related physical performance complications.

Herda joined the KU faculty in 2011.

Herda wrote in his application, “The mentorship provided by Dr. Thyfault and the other CHLN researchers who have received and reviewed NIH grants will significantly improve my National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases applications. In addition, there will be an abstract presented and published, and a manuscript submitted because of this Keeler Family Intra-University Professorship. I will work closely with Dr. Thyfault, Dr. Shook and other researchers at CHLN throughout the development of abstract, manuscript and grant application(s), which will develop important future collaborations for me at CHLN.”

Michael Krueger
Michael Krueger, professor of visual art, will spend the spring 2022 semester working with Margaret Kelley, professor of American studies, and Richard Yi, professor of psychology, to create learning opportunities in partnership with the Center for Service Learning and begin a public awareness project. The project aims to bring greater awareness to the crisis of addiction and overdose through creative practices and artmaking. Krueger will also create original works of art for exhibition; to create a visual statement crafted with the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and ceramics. Krueger will examine how addiction can thrive under certain political and cultural climates and how these factors affect treatment and recovery.

Krueger joined the KU faculty in 1995.

Krueger said, “We are in a crisis of addiction, nationally and globally. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid overdose was at epidemic levels. Throughout the pandemic, the rate of opioid use and overdose has escalated significantly. This professorship will help me connect to the kind of research I need to bring depth to the project. This is the power of art, to create a visual image that allows others to commune on difficult subjects and to move the culture forward towards a place of empathy and understanding.”

Emily Witt
Emily Witt, associate professor of mathematics, will spend the fall 2021 semester collaborating with Perry Alexander, who is the AT&T Foundation Distinguished Professor in electrical engineering & computer science (EECS) and director of the Information & Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC). She hopes to begin collaborating with EECS faculty toward solving verification and attestation problems and developing coursework that will be beneficial for both EECS and mathematics students.

Witt joined the KU faculty in 2015.

“I hope to master some fundamentals in the theory of remote attestation and proof verification, which includes becoming more proficient with the formal proof management system Coq,” Witt said. “Mathematics and computer science are scientifically interconnected fields, and delving into the latter opens up a completely new and exciting direction for my research program. In both research and teaching endeavors, the natural pairing has the potential to grow and expand into long-term collaborations.”

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