This is an NSF RAPID award in response to the 2020 CARES Act and is managed by the Polymers Program in the Division of Materials Research of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
PART 1: NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY
Since the first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) appeared in late 2019, the disease has infected millions globally. The virus responsible for COVID-19 can stay active, capable of causing infections, on various surfaces for days, during which time indirect contact transmission could occur. Coronaviruses contain both a surface envelope of lipids and surface presented proteins which resemble spikes. Both of these features of the virus can be used to trap and destroy the viruses within synthetic materials. Synthetic polymer materials capable of inactivating and sequestering the virus causing COVID-19 will be developed in this project. These materials will form tough structures, with the materials containing synthetic and natural groups to both disrupt the lipid molecules on the surface of the virus and to bind and trap the coronavirus spike proteins. The polymers will form a tough network, ensuring the material performs for an extended period of time. This research involves design and synthesis of polymers as well as characterization and study of their mechanical properties and focuses on developing materials that could be adapted or coated onto existing high-touch surfaces. Additionally, the project will create publicly accessible virtual presentations and content on how polymer materials are critical for the health care industry and innovations in materials for biomedical applications. With the development of materials with excellent durability and robust ability to disrupt and trap the coronavirus, a reduction in COVID-19 infection by mitigating the indirect contact transmission mechanism is possible.
PART 2: TECHNICAL SUMMARY
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) exhibits active lifetimes of over 24 hours. This enables transmission to occur hours or days after a virus containing droplet is deposited from an infected individual. Materials that destroy the virus and sequester the virus to the surface could reduce the transmission rate of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This project will develop virus trapping and disrupting tough networks which could be used to coat commonly encountered surfaces. The polymer materials will disrupt the lipid envelope of SARS-CoV-2 viral particles and bind the spike on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 with high affinity. Both purely synthetic materials as well as hybrid peptide/synthetic materials approaches will be investigated. The polymers will include tough network forming functionalities as well as peptide or synthetic polymers for both lipid envelope disruption and spike protein binding. The scientific focus of the project is to determine how a polymer material's microstructure and functionality impacts its ability to: form tough and mechanically robust networks; disrupt viral lipid envelopes; and immobilize SARS-CoV-2 through the surface spike proteins. A library of polymer materials containing distinct crosslink densities and macromolecular architectures will be used to determine how polymer structure impacts a material's mechanical property, lipid particle rupturing capability, and ability to bind to SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. This will guide the design of materials for optimal mechanical performance and coronavirus disrupting capabilities, and will facilitate the design of surface coatings that can hinder indirect contact transmission with long lifetimes of the structures. To remotely engage with the public on the importance of polymer materials, a series of monthly YouTube videos will be developed to convey how polymer materials are critical to health and safety, highlighting developments in materials for healthcare and biomedical applications.
This grant is being awarded using funds made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supplement allocated to MPS.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.