The Texas Legislature last week requested this document, and we offer it for your information.
The Texas A&M University System serves 151,000 students across the state through its 11 universities and health science center. Our campuses remain open to students who need to remain in the dorms and are providing them with food service, health services and other needed support. Our institutions are delivering courses online and are continuing academic support, advising, and financial aid resources as needed. Students who are opting to leave campus for the remainder of the semester are able to apply for refunds or credits for housing and dining, and institutions are working through issues related to making those refunds/credits available to the students. Essential faculty and staff are maintaining administrative operations, critical research support and other core functions to operate the campuses, and we are adhering to federal, state, and local guidelines for social distancing, infection control, and shelter-in-place in order to help combat COVID-19 while continuing to maintain essential services.
TAMUS Faculty Researchers and Experts are engaged in the COVID-19 response. Here are a few examples:
The Texas A&M Health Science Center is engaged with University of Texas System on a “COVID-19 Academic Health Advisory Group” at the request of Governor Greg Abbott. Those subject matter experts are working on a variety of issues largely focused on surge capacity in terms of health care facilities and workforce. In addition, HSC researchers are looking at models of the virus spread and impact on healthcare infrastructure for use in supply distribution and logistics.
The Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (one of two federal BARDA vaccine facilities) has submitted a federal proposal regarding vaccine manufacturing and stands ready to respond to federal requests to assist with the pandemic response.
Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist and the chair of Biological Sciences at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, is one of the world’s experts on coronaviruses. Dr. Neuman has researched these viruses for 24 years and most recently served on the international committee that named the latest virus. His ongoing research includes collaborating to make the first accurate model of SARS-CoV-2, advising a vaccine development effort, and using bioinformatics to discover new coronavirus-like viruses before they emerge. He is currently being widely interviewed by news and health organizations around the world about COVID-19.
Texas A&M University hosts the Texas A&M Emergency Management Advisory Group (TEMAG), which is focused on protecting Texas and the nation against hazards and threats. TEMAG is led by Dr. Gerry Parker, a leading expert on global health and pandemic response and a former military and civilian leader at the federal level in U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) for chemical and biological preparedness and response. Dr. Allison Ficht, a Regent’s Professor in the Texas A&M College of Medicine who also oversees the Texas A&M Global Health Research Complex, co-leads the TEMAG and conducts research in vaccine delivery formulation through microencapsulation and other novel methods. TEMAG is activated in a number of areas with academia, governmental public health agencies, industry, and non-profits across the areas of risk assessment and response planning, situational intelligence and information review at the national and international level, advanced research and development for diagnostics, vaccinations and advanced prevention, among other areas related to COVID-19 response.
Texas A&M Health Science Center: Celltex, a pioneer in autologous stem cell therapeutic technology, is known for its mesenchymal stem cell technology and its partnership with the Texas A&M University Institute for Regenerative Medicine. This includes over thirty years of MSC research and work of Drs. Darwin J. Prockop and Ashok K. Shetty at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, Texas A&M University College of Medicine. Dr. Shetty is a co-principal investigator on a Celltex research partnership with Texas A&M University, who has authored the editorial entitled, “Mesenchymal Stem Cell Infusion Shows Promise for Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Induced Pneumonia,” Aging and Disease, Volume 11, No. 2, 2020, regarding a new study published by Aging and Disease which reported that intravenous administration of clinical-grade human MSCs into patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) resulted in improved functional outcomes.
West Texas A&M University: A technology developed to protect soldiers from anthrax is being applied to protect surfaces from viruses and bacteria and will soon be tested for effectiveness against COVID-19. Developed by WTAMU Engineering Dean Dr. Emily Hunt and graduate students, the copper-alloy foil, Copper Clean, is a new invention in the form of antiviral stickers applied over handles and push plate. The students are working to commercialize patents they have obtained for West Texas A&M University and The Texas A&M University System.
TAMUS laboratories are working with iBio, Inc, a biologics manufacturing company on immunization studies with its SARS-CoV-2Virus-Like Particles. Dr. James Samuel, head of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the Texas A&M College of Medicine is working on options for completing preclinical immunization studies for iBio to advance to clinical trials.
Texas A&M Agencies are assisting with the state’s response in a number of areas:
Texas A&M System contains eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). TDEM is operating in a lead capacity to execute the state’s emergency management plan and assisting with all areas of the state response, along with the Department of State Health Services. TDEM will oversee the Major Disaster Declaration (DR-4485) which was granted by the White House and will provide additional federal assistance through FEMA Individual Assistance and Public Assistance to save lives, protect property, public health and safety and to lessen or avert the threat of COVID-19.
Texas A&M Agrilife Research virologists are working to provide scientific advice on the biology and detection of COVID-19. Their research is examining RNA virus interactions with cellular membranes and cellular adaptive machinery. Associated findings could provide for strategies to work against coronaviruses, specifically SARS (SARS-CoV). Scientists are also testing whether compounds recently developed at AgriLife Research to target malaria, Chagas disease, and tuberculosis will have activity against COVID-19.
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station is proactively vetting prototypes of various products, such as an innovated alternative N95 mask and an emerging 3D-printed ventilator machine component, to be used by medical providers in high-demand areas that are currently experiencing a critical supply shortage.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Disaster Assessment Recovery agents are actively sending updates about their counties to the Texas Division of Emergency Management State Operations Center while also keeping Texans informed with the latest on COVID-19 and disaster preparedness resources. AgriLife Extension agents and specialists are helping agricultural producers and members of the agricultural supply chain appropriately navigate travel restrictions; providing guidance from state and federal agencies characterizing agriculture as an essential business.
In addition, Agrilife Extension agents are providing digital education and awareness for communities and individuals regarding COVID-19 and is hosting numerous online events and forums aimed at hygiene, social distancing, and other topics for 4-H and youth groups. Agrilife Extension has launched a web ‘hub’ of all relevant offerings as a one stop shop for external audiences seeking information related to COVID-19, such as health/nutrition advice and activities for children at home.
Texas A&M Forest Service employees are assisting at the TDEM San Antonio warehouse with logistics, receiving, and distribution of needed supplies for the response.
Texas A&M Engineering Extension (TEEX) is assisting by providing staff support to TDEM as needed, and Texas Task Force 1, operated by TEEX, is ready to be deployed for any search and rescue missions if activated by either FEMA or Governor Abbott.
Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory is applying for federal approval for the College Stations and Amarillo labs to aid in COVID-19 testing capacity. TVMDL will work closely with local public health officials in any response efforts.
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
(512) 289-2782 cell