Texas will bounce back from “Double Whammy Tsunami”

Texas will bounce back from “Double Whammy Tsunami”

The Texas A&M University System News Release

While the pandemic and oil glut create a double dose of devastation, three Texas A&M scholars tell Chancellor John Sharp that they see new economic opportunities rising from the rubble.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Oil prices will rebound before the year’s end. The doors of bars and restaurants will host reopening celebrations. Long-lasting changes will spring forth in industry, education and consumer behavior.

These are some of the predictions made by three leading economic scholars from Texas A&M University during an interview with John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M System.

“We’ve been hit with what I call a ‘double whammy tsunami’ because we have the oil prices crashing plus the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr. Venky Shankar, research director of the Center for Retailing Studies at the Mays Business School. “But this creates the conditions for us to move in new directions, expand our economy and lead other states.”

“It’s a time of tremendous experimentation,” said Dr. Raymond Robertson, director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. “We are going to learn so much about what works and what doesn’t.”

Dr. Detlef Hallermann, director of the Reliant Energy Trade Center at the Mays Business School, said the key to quick recovery will be small businesses reopening in May or June.

If that can happen, the recession will be short-lived and oil prices will climb to about $40 a barrel by the end of 2020, Hallermann said.

He stood by his prediction even though prices for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for crude oil, plummeted below zero last week.

“Life is very similar one year from now to where we were three months ago,” Hallermann told the Chancellor.

The discussion is part of a series of television shows called, “COVID-19: The Texas A&M System Responds.” Chancellor Sharp is interviewing leading experts to help Texans understand the pandemic and all of its implications.

The show will air 7 p.m. Thursday on KAMU-TV in College Station and on other Texas public television affiliates. (Check local listings in Dallas, Austin, and Amarillo.) It also will be available on the System’s YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/63ZWYexhJsU

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Texas A&M Veterinary Lab Tests People for COVID-19 Despite Federal Red Tape limiting Capacity

Texas A&M Veterinary Lab Tests People for COVID-19 Despite Federal Red Tape limiting Capacity

The Texas A&M University System News Release

(COLLEGE STATION, Texas) — The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory is helping increase the state’s capacity to test people for COVID-19.

But federal red tape is holding back the state agency from widespread testing — even in Amarillo as the Panhandle has become a hotbed for the coronavirus.

“Increased testing is the key to safely opening up the economy,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “The federal government needs to let us unleash the full potential of our diagnostic veterinary labs.”

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), a component of Texas A&M AgriLife, has more testing capability than any public lab in the state. It could run as many as 300 samples per day in its Center and Gonzales labs, another 1,000 per day in Amarillo and as many as 1,800 per day in College Station.

Monday, the TVMDL lab in College Station began limited human testing through a temporary partnership with a local health care provider. However, for more than a month, Texas A&M System officials have hit a roadblock at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) while trying to fully scale up TVMDL labs for human testing.

Amarillo Congressman Mac Thornberry has joined the effort.

“Many of the steps we can take to deal with COVID-19 are really common sense,” Thornberry said. “Animal health professionals, such as those at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Amarillo, maintain the highest medical standards and can make a major contribution to more testing in the Panhandle. I will continue to push federal agencies to make better use of the resources we have available in this fight.”

Veterinary diagnostic laboratories test at high-volumes for flocks and herds of animals. TVMDL routinely performs 900,000 tests annually, with over 64,000 of those tests using the same method used to test for COVID-19, a process called polymerase chain reaction or PCR.

While the supplies to run the human PCR test are different than those used for animals, the equipment and the testing process are the same.

TVMDL staff have years of formal education, training, and experience in the procedures.

HHS generally requires people with human lab experience to oversee human testing. The Texas A&M System is seeking a waiver in light of the pandemic. Texas has one of the nation’s lowest rates of COVID-19 testing per capita.

TVMDL would use the same FDA-approved test kit as other labs.

“There are not a lot of differences between human and animal PCR tests,” TVMDL Director Dr. Bruce Akey said. “Aside from the testing reagents used, the equipment and testing process are identical.”

TVMDL is a natural fit to provide such a public service. The agency is a part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), a group of state and regional veterinary laboratories performing surveillance testing for the US Department of Agriculture. They follow strict federal standards to ensure the quality and reliability of testing.

“We provide the highest quality service every day to veterinary clients,” Akey said. “Although this will be the first time in TVMDL’s history to test human clinical samples, we have all the equipment, supplies, and expertise to help make a lasting impact in Texas.”

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Texas A&M Leads Nationwide Test of Drug to Fight COVID-19

Texas A&M Leads Nationwide Test of Drug to Fight COVID-19

The Texas A&M University System News Release

A&M Professor Expects Results in Six Months Repurposing Existing Vaccine
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M University researchers are asking hundreds of frontline medical workers to participate in a late-stage, phase 4, clinical trial of a widely used tuberculosis vaccine that could blunt the devastating effects of COVID-19.

Texas A&M is the lead entity in a world-class group of institutions seeking to repurpose the vaccine, BCG, which also is used to treat bladder cancer in the U.S. BCG could be widely available for use against COVID-19 in just six months because it has already been proven safe for other uses. View a video about the clinical study here: https://youtu.be/UufUE-8raNs

The Texas A&M Health Science Center is leading a group of scientists and medical doctors with Harvard’s School of Public Health, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. MD Anderson is supplying the vaccine for use in the clinical trial.

Researchers hope to demonstrate that the BCG mitigates the effects of the virus, allowing fewer people to be hospitalized or to die from COVID-19.

“It’s not going to prevent people from getting infected,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Cirillo, a Regent’s Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “This vaccine has the very broad ability to strengthen your immune response. We call it ‘trained immunity.’

“This could make a huge difference in the next two to three years while the development of a specific vaccine is developed for COVID-19.”

Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp last week offered $2.5 million to make sure the work of Dr. Cirillo can move forward as quickly as possible.

“If there was ever a time to invest in medical research, it is now,” Chancellor Sharp said. “Dr. Cirillo has a head start on a possible coronavirus treatment, and I want to make sure he has what he needs to protect the world from more of the horrible effects of this pandemic.”

Dr. Cirillo said repurposing the existing bladder cancer vaccine, called TICE® BCG, could result in bringing a COVID-19 treatment to the U.S. public in the fastest possible way. Because the drug is already approved by the FDA, Dr. Cirillo can skip the first three phases of clinical trials usually required before testing on people, since this vaccine has already passed those phases.

“Before Chancellor Sharp’s investment in our work, we were spending far too much time writing grants. Now, we can move ahead without barriers,” Dr. Cirillo said.

Texas A&M is the first U.S. institution in the clinical trial to have federal clearance for testing on humans. Healthcare workers will be the first people eligible for clinical trial, which is set to begin this week.

Recruitment of 1,800 volunteers to participate in the trial is already underway in College Station and Houston, and it could be expanded to other areas of the state as well as Los Angeles and Boston. Medical professionals interested in the trial can contact Gabriel Neal, MD at gneal@tamu.edu or Jeffrey Cirillo, PhD at jdcirillo@tamu.edu or George Udeani, PharmD DSc at udeani@tamu.edu.

As the coronavirus spread, researchers noticed that the morbidity and mortality rates were lower in some developing countries where the BCG vaccine is widely used.

Because the human body fights a COVID-19 infection in a manner that is similar to how it would attack bladder cancer, Dr. Cirillo is hopeful that his work could lead to an effective – and quickly developed – treatment for COVID-19.

Additionally, evidence shows that the coronavirus can cause damage to a patient’s central nervous system, and it even might cause long-term effects that could lead to dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson ’s disease. Dr. Cirillo said the potential for lasting effects from COVID-19 is another reason to get the vaccine to the public as quickly as possible.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Texas A&M-Texarkana expert fights ignorance about coronavirus

Texas A&M-Texarkana expert fights ignorance about coronavirus

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Dr. Benjamin Neuman answers questions from journalists – and children – from around the world

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The coronavirus behind the current pandemic is scary, but ignorance about it is even scarier.

That’s why Dr. Benjamin Neuman, head of the biology department at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, has been so busy lately trying to answer questions from journalists around the world, as well children.

Both like Dr. Neuman’s reassuring style of explaining complicated things simply.

“People are just trying to understand a new, unfamiliar kind of scary thing,” Dr. Neuman said. “I think context is what really makes a scary thing less scary. When we understand what’s going on and why everything is happening, all of the sudden it makes sense.”

Journalists seek out Dr. Neuman as one of the world’s preeminent coronavirus researchers. Not only has he grown more SARS virus in the lab than anyone alive, his expertise earned him a seat on the international committee that named SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Dr. Neuman started taking questions from kids around the world on his “Dr. Ben Neuman’s Science Group on Facebook.” The group quickly exploded with thousands of followers.

Now, Dr. Neuman answers some questions from John Sharp, Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, in an exclusive 30-minute interview.

“We need to be prepared, SARS is not going to be a one-time thing,” Dr. Neuman tells Chancellor Sharp. “We can get rid of this virus, but it’s going to be whack-a-mole from here on out and so we need a better strategy. We need a little bit of forward planning. I think that’s where the A&M System and scientists come in. That’s what we do.”

The show will air 7 p.m. Thursday on KAMU-TV in College Station and on other Texas public television affiliates. (Check your local listing in Austin, Dallas, Waco and Amarillo.) The show also will be available on The Texas A&M University System’s YouTube channel:
https://youtu.be/dzoJtp3Zg2A

This is the third in a series of television shows hosted by Chancellor Sharp to educate Texans on the implications of COVID-19. He will be interviewing scientists, researchers and other leading experts from the Texas A&M System who are helping Texas and the nation respond to the pandemic.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Pandemic scholars had warned U.S ill-prepared for COVID-19

Pandemic scholars had warned U.S ill-prepared for COVID-19

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Chancellor John Sharp interviews leading scientists from Bush School of Government
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The lead researchers of the Texas A&M Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program see themselves as scholars — not soothsayers.

But for years Dr. Gerald Parker and Dr. Christine Blackburn had warned officials in Washington D.C. about the need to better prepare for the next pandemic. They emphasized the urgency for strong, centralized U.S. leadership — both for this nation and for the world. They also warned of the nation’s vulnerable manufacturing chain of medical supplies stretching across the globe, even citing N95 masks made in China as an example.

“Four or five things keep bubbling up after every outbreak,” Dr. Parker said. “They include leadership, coordination, collaboration, communication, and innovation, and that we weren’t good enough in all of those categories.”

Dr. Blackburn was the lead author of an Aug. 20, 2018 article in The Conversation, “Three reasons the U.S. is not ready for the next pandemic.”

“This interconnectedness of the global economy,” the article said, “and the expansiveness of the medical supply chains means that a disruption anywhere along the line could spell disaster worldwide.”

“You were prophetic,” John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, told the researchers during an exclusive interview. “If everybody had listened to you, we wouldn’t be in quite the mess we are in right now.”

Sharp interviewed Dr. Parker and Dr. Blackburn about the unlearned lessons of past infectious disease outbreaks and the lessons that need to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really need to greatly expand our testing capabilities,” Dr. Parker told Sharp. “That’s going to be key to us being able to lift the social distancing measures and help us return to normalcy.”

This is the second in a special series of television shows called, “COVID-19: The Texas A&M System Responds.” Chancellor Sharp is interviewing scientists, researchers and other leading experts who are helping Texas and the nation fight the pandemic in a variety of ways.

Dr. Parker is director and Dr. Blackburn is deputy director of the Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program at the Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs, which is part of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Dr. Parker also advises Gov. Greg Abbott and his cabinet on the state’s COVID-19 response.

The interview will air 7 p.m. Thursday on KAMU-TV in College Station and on other Texas public television affiliates. (Check your local listings in Austin, Dallas, Waco and Amarillo.) It also will be available on the System’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/3Nx7-pSHtrM

Other upcoming episodes will include a leading virus fighter, experts on the economic crisis and Chief Nim Kidd, the head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management and vice chancellor for Disaster and Emergency Services at the Texas A&M System.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

System News Archives

April 2020
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