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Alianza UCMX and the UNAM Announce the Binational Collaborative COVID-19 Awards

20 Projects Awarded $194,990 USD to support UC-UNAM collaborative innovation, product development and applied research that aims to mitigate the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of California, through Alianza UCMX and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, launched a Special Call for Binational Collaboration Addressing COVID-19 in April 2020. The awardees will receive up to $5,000 USD to fund activities through UC and up to the equivalent of $5,000 USD in Mexican pesos to support activities in Mexico from UNAM, to create a total maximum budget of $10,000 USD per project.  Proposals were submitted by students, faculty, and other university researchers.

After binational academic review, Alianza UCMX and UNAM selected 20 research proposals that address problems related to COVID-19 through innovative entrepreneurship, applied research, and technological development in the following areas.  All ten UC campuses host award recipients, with UCSD hosting the largest number. 

Biomedical 
A machine-learning algorithm as a COVID-19 diagnostic proxy: Validation in a Mexican medical center (David Goodman-Meza, UCLA & Alvaro López Iñiguez, UNAM)

Discovering Inhibitors of the SARS-COV-2 spike protein from natural sources (Fenical William H., UCSD & Rachel Mata, UNAM)

Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in vulnerable populations in Tijuana, Mexico (Antoine Chaillon, UCSD & Carlo Magis-Rodriguez, UNAM)

Characterization of the brain ACE2→ANGIOTENSIN-(1-7) →MAS RECEPTOR AXIS, Association with Cognitive Behavior, and Regulation by vitamin D in western diet-induced obesity (Elena Kozlova and Margarita Curras-Collazo, UC Riverside & Ruth Gutiérrez Aguilar, UNAM)

Validación de un sistema de diagnóstico molecular portátil para SARS-CoV-2 para punto de contacto (point-of-care) (Luis Vaca, UNAM & Claudia Andrea Wehrhahn Cortés, UC Santa Cruz)

Pathophysiological analysis of ACE2’s role in COVID19: could HRT ameliorate the disease severity (Limei Zhang Ji, UNAM & Sushil Mahata, UCSD)

Targeting neutrophils as a strategy to ameliorate severe COVID-19 (Araceli Perez-Lopez, UNAM & Manuela Raffatellu, UCSD)

Anti-COVID peptides: Blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection with engineered peptides (Esmeralda Cuevas Juárez and Laura Palomares, UNAM & William Gelbart, UCLA)

Health Systems 
Modeling the de-escalation of control measurements of COVID-19 in California and Baja California (Beatriz Martinez Lopez, UC Davis & Reyna Lizette Pacheco Dominguez, UNAM)

Fractional calculus-based modeling & prediction of COVID19 spreading with network effects (YangQuan Chen UC Merced & Rafael Barrio, UNAM)

The compounded impact of COVID-19 on agricultural workers in the presence of heat waves (David Lopez-Carr, UC Santa Barbara & Armando Sanchez, UNAM)

Acceso COVID (Lucia Abascal Miguel and Jaime Sepúlveda, UCSF & Dania Nimbe Lima Sanchez, UNAM)

Consejería psicológica en línea para atender a población migrante en California durante el COVID-19 (Maria Georgina Cardenas-Lopez, UNAM & Claudia Diaz Carrasco, UC ANR)

Sistema de vigilancia en plantas de tratamiento para SARS-CoV-2 en Ciudad de México y San Francisco (Marisa Mazari-Hiriart, UNAM & Kara Nelson, UC Berkeley)

Reducing Vulnerability to COVID through a community-based approach in small rural establishments. The case of the tortilla handmakers in the Purépecha area of Michoacán (Marta Astier, UNAM & Rufus Edwards, UC Irvine)

Social & Economic Consequences of the Pandemic
Psychosocial consequences of COVID-19 in farmworkers from avocado farms in Michoacan, Mexico (Ana Maria Mora-Wyrobek, UC Berkeley & Cynthia Armendariz Arnez, UNAM)

Impact of COVID-19 on Young People’s Labor Market Participation, Political Engagement, & Well-Being (Jason Anthony Plummer and Laura Wray-Lake, UCLA & Renata Turrent Hegewisch, UNAM)

Diseño y prueba de una intervención para mitigar consecuencias en salud de Covid-19 en migrantes (Juan Pablo Gutierrez, UNAM & Rafael Fernandez Castro, UCSD)

Construyendo comunidades y redes de economía solidaria (Tommaso Gravante, UNAM & Andrea L. Joyce, UC Merced)

Reactivación económica en San Juan Tlacotenco, Tepoztlán, Morelos (Vania Del Rivero Castañeda and Fabián  González Luna, UNAM & Marlon Maus, UC Berkeley)

Award Criteria
Alianza UCMX and UNAM selected proposals that had the greatest potential to change the course of the pandemic.
Projects were peer-reviewed by a binational evaluation committee that focused on the following criteria: the potential to mitigate the impact of COVID-19; feasibility; quality and appropriateness of the proposed design and methodology; and ability of the applicants to conduct the proposed work.

Acknowledgment
This binational effort was possible thanks to the support provided by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (especially Liliana Ferrer, Consul General in Sacramento) and both universities, including staff of UC MEXUS, the Health Initiative of the Americas, and InnovaUNAM. We would also like to thank the faculty and researchers from UC and UNAM who volunteered their time to review the proposals.