Texas A&M System starts TV Series on COVID-19 Fight

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Chancellor John Sharp will host, conduct interviews with experts

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Scientists and other experts from throughout The Texas A&M University System will speak with Chancellor John Sharp about their roles in the fight against COVID-19 on a new television series beginning 7 p.m. Thursday.

The special series will air every Thursday at 7 p.m. on KAMU-TV. It also will be available on the System’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/tamusystem

“During this pandemic, our scientists and policy advisors are counted on across Texas and all across the world,” Chancellor Sharp said. “I’m delighted to partner with KAMU and host a show that will share with Texans our unique roles and expert insights.”

Episode one will feature Dr. Peter Hotez, a Hagler Institute scholar at Texas A&M University and a professor, vaccine researcher and dean at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Dr. Hotez is widely considered among the world’s most important health care leaders. He shares a stark message about the dangers of COVID-19 in coming weeks and months and the difficulties of developing effective treatments and vaccines any time soon.

Episode two will feature scholars from the Bush School of Government and Public Service who predicted in 2018 that the United States would be ill-prepared for the next global pandemic.

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

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Texas A&M Law School to Host Webinar Series on Practical Effects of the Coronavirus Relief Package

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Texas A&M Law School to Host Webinar Series on Practical Effects of the Coronavirus Relief Package

Learn how the CARES Act affects you

FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s more than just cashing a $1,200 check from the feds.

Beginning Monday, faculty at the Texas A&M University School of Law will share their knowledge in a series of one-hour webinars to help Texans understand the benefits and implications of the federal government’s relief package.

The faculty will offer free, practical and fact-based information regarding effects of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on individuals, small businesses and health care. Participants will be able to ask questions of some of the most highly qualified professionals in the nation.

“The members of The Texas A&M University System community take their responsibilities seriously in these difficult times,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “The faculty at the Texas A&M Law School are among the most knowledgeable experts in the country and are eager to help Texans any way they can.”

Here is the schedule and links to register:

Individual Incentives Under the CARES Act: What’s in it for Me?Monday, April 6, 2020, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Central

Small Business Incentives Under the CARES Act: Will it Help My Business?
Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Central

Health Care Implications Under the CARES Act
Monday, April 13, 2020, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Central

The CARES Act provides more than $2 trillion in emergency relief intended to stabilize the economy and help protect employees and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Among other benefits, the new law offers nearly $300 billion in one-time payments to individuals and families, $260 billion in unemployment insurance benefits, $377 billion for small businesses, $500 billion for corporations, $140 billion to support the U.S. health system and more.

This webinar series will address implications of the CARES Act for individuals, small businesses, and the health care sector. Some of the topics of the webinars will include:

  • The one-time payments to individuals and families
  • Implications for retirement accounts and charitable contributions
  • Tax and IRS-related impacts
  • Obligations and opportunities for small businesses
  • Funding for screening, treatment, and vaccines
  • Access to care for uninsured, undocumented, and minority communities
  • Implications for Medicaid/Medicare
  • Funding for medical equipment health care facilities

Robert Ahdieh, dean of the Texas A&M Law School, said he and his faculty look forward to creating additional helpful programs in the future.

“We are ready to do our part,” Dean Ahdieh said. “In times of crisis, confusion and misinformation are threats in their own right. That is why the Texas A&M Law faculty wants to offer whatever opportunity they can for our fellow Texans to understand what is available to them.”

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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Aggie Veterinary labs cobble together 2,000 COVID-19 sampling kits

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Swab kits to be donated to hospitals across the state.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — More than 2,000 COVID-19 sampling kits will soon be on their way to hospitals across the state, thanks to Aggie innovation and ingenuity.

CLICK HERE FOR B-ROLL OF THE COVID-19 SAMPLING KITS BEING ASSEMBLED

Viral sampling kits — usually used on pigs, cows and chickens — are being repurposed to test humans by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station. The sampling kits are being assembled from lab supplies already in stock at TVMDL’s four labs across the state.

Once assembled, they will be shipped to hospitals in cities with a Texas A&M System campus to help meet surge in needed sampling kits including campuses in Galveston, McAllen and the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. The university presidents will determine where there is the greatest need for the kits in their community.

“No one has ever done this before, but tough times call for creative measures,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. “The very same experts who help track disease outbreaks in animals have put their minds to the biggest problem we all face today and doing what they can to help.”

Dr. Bruce Akey, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, said he sent out a plea for supplies to his labs in Amarillo, Center and Gonzales and they began overnighting the supplies late last week.

“We are assembling the supplies into sampling kits here in our College Station lab,” Akey said. “We know that 2,000 may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million Texans at risk that may need testing, but if you need to be tested and you can’t right now because they don’t have this kit then it’s a pretty big deal to you and your family. So we are doing what we can right now.”

The kits consist of a swab, a vial with transport media to preserve the sample in the vial, and a bag. They usually cost about $4 to $5 if you were to order them in bulk before the pandemic swept through the existing stock. Now, these simple supplies are back-ordered for months, crippling efforts to test humans for COVID-19.

“We hope to get these sampling kits in the hospitals or clinics where they are most needed as soon as possible,” Akey said. “We are pulling out all the stops.”

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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Media Advisory: Texas A&M System’s COVID-19 Response

The Texas A&M University System News Release

The Texas Legislature last week requested this document, and we offer it for your information.

Universities:

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
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Aggie Engineers Create Step-by-Step Method of Making Protective Medical Masks

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Emergency Room Physicians asked Texas A&M’s John Criscione for help as supplies diminish

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With a touch of inspiration from MacGyver, Aggies have developed a way to make medical protective gear from readily available materials.
A group of professors and graduate students from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University are researching methods to construct desperately needed personal protection masks for medical personnel who have seen a depletion of resources as the number of COVID-19 cases increases.

John Criscione, a Texas A&M professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and a Johns Hopkins-educated medical doctor, said he and his colleagues are investigating a low-technology solution to a growing problem. Dr. Criscione and his team have figured out a way to build masks with materials such as air-conditioning filters, sheer curtains, staples and stretchable cords.

John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, said the Texas A&M community has a long tradition of helping society when it needs assistance the most.
“This is exactly the kind of Aggie ingenuity that has been evident on our campus for generations,” he said. See a video about the engineering professors and their efforts at Masks“.

Also, see a video with a step-by-step guide concerning construction of protective masks at https://enmed.tamu.edu/DIYmasks/

Dr. Criscione said his team will be quantitatively testing do-it-yourself masks in the coming days. The team will continue its efforts to create a mask that has features similar to the N95 respirator, which is capable of filtering 95 percent of airborne particles, including viruses. (Surgical masks cannot block as much.)

“If the gap between supply and demand continues to worsen, and particularly our emergency medical colleagues are forced to use DIY masks, we want them to have technical guidance as they make their choices of materials and construction,” Dr. Criscione said. “We see this as our selfless service responsibility to the general public, as Aggies, and we are here to help.”

The project began after emergency room physicians asked Dr. Criscione to explore potential solutions, in case masks become unavailable. The result is a work-product that would be approved by MacGyver, the innovative namesake of an iconic late 1980s/early1990s TV show.

The prototype never was intended to join the supply-chain of approved personal protective equipment, or PPE, Dr. Criscione said. Rather, he said that the Aggie masks should be reserved for worse-case scenarios where overwhelmed hospitals “had no protective masks to use for life-saving procedures.”

Another group at Texas A&M’s College of Engineering is working on options to produce similar personal protective masks with 3D printers

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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