This project proposes to use in silico simulations to engineer nanoscale, biocompatible, protective barrier that will enhance our first line of defenses - prevention of pathogenic infection from entering and infecting the host. The principal investigator aims to develop a topical method that will enhance protection against virus attachment onto the nasal and oral as well as conjunctival epithelial cells, while preserving normal physiology and biochemistry. The project team will use computer models to engineer delivery devices to produce the optimal particle characteristics to maximally prevent microbial infection. If successful, this project can lead to paradigm changing alternatives to reducing public health risk to air borne infections like COVID-19 and seasonal flu which may be associated with devastating effects on the United States and World economy. The proposed approach will be swiftly conducted to present realistic solutions that may be useable in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic as well as future flu viruses of similar magnitude.

This research will fundamentally contribute to modeling the interactions between viral membranes and nanoscale barriers. The production of an innovative nanoscale biodegradable barrier may reduce the socioeconomic and public health burden significantly by lowering the risk of viral infection during the flu season or pandemics. The project team comprise of an interdisciplinary team that include engineers, ophthalmologists, molecular biologist, virologist and pharmacologist to explore a problem that could have a tremendous impact on the way we respond to seasonal flu or pandemics. Besides the potential benefits to reduce COVID-19 and influenza related deaths in the US and worldwide, the proposed work will afford us the opportunity to train engineering and biomedical students in a highly interdisciplinary research activity.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Emerging Frontiers (EF)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Leon Esterowitz
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University of Southern California
Los Angeles
United States
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