We’d like to express our pride towards the experts at our founding universities Wageningen University and Research (WUR), Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for stepping up and playing a necessary role in such moving times. Here, we’ve made a selection of their research related to the current crisis – ranging from a technological to virologic focus - which we hope will inspire you too.

A significant increase in test capacity, the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, protective “snorkel” masks, re-usable surgical masks, a breathing machine ventilator 60 times cheaper than usual, and research on spreading processes… It is safe to say, times like these ask for exemplary research.

Test capacity increased times two
Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) has started to carry out tests to determine whether a patient is infected by COVID-19. WBVR can carry out up to 1.500 tests per day. This is a significant expansion of the test capacity in the Netherlands – now almost two times more tests can be carried out than was previously stated. Read more about the role of WBVR here >>

“We can now apply our knowledge to help the labs that have done such an excellent job under tremendous pressure over the last weeks. Running diagnostics in crises such as this is precisely what we are for.”

Ludo Hellebrekers | Director | Wageningen Bioveterinary Research | Source: WUR.nl

Ludo Hellebrekers | Director | Wageningen Bioveterinary Research

The development of a vaccine
A consortium, led by the Danish company Expres2ion Biotechnologies, received funding from the European Commission to develop a candidate COVID-19 vaccine. With regard to the development of this vaccine, experts at WURs Laboratory of Virology are producing particular proteins that are to be used in the COVID-19 vaccine.

The consortium will develop several different prototype vaccines, the best of which will eventually be developed further. This selection will most likely be made in the fall. The aim is to test this vaccine in humans within a year.

3D printed component makes snorkel mask useful for medics
TU Delft’s Industrial Design Engineering researchers, in collaboration with physicians and industry, designed a unique 3D printed connector to connect an ordinary snorkel mask to a filter system. This makes the snorkel mask usable as a protective mask for medical personnel. The design has been made available worldwide on Thingiverse.

3D printed component makes snorkel mask useful for medics | TU Delft | Thingiverse

Could surgical masks be re-used?
The COVID-19 pandemic and its rapid spread has led to an impending shortage of face masks and other personal protective equipment. What if there was a way to successfully test and sterilize used surgical masks to re-use these?

TU Delft researchers at the Department of BioMechanical Engineering, John van den Dobbelsteen and Tim Horeman, lab manager Rob Luttjeboer and Bart van Straten, director of Van Straten Medical, tested a new way of sterilizing various surgical masks from Sint Franciscus Gasthuis, LUMC and the Reinier de Graaf Hospital.

The used surgical masks were re-sterilized according to a specific protocol at 121 degrees and tested at TU Delft and the Reinier de Graaf Hospital. The test results are consistent with those of new face masks. Read the full article here >>

Deployment of an open-source, low-cost ventilator
Currently, a lack of ventilators is one of the most pressing shortages hospitals are facing. These machines can keep patients breathing when they no longer can on their own, and they can cost around $30,000 each. What if a simple ventilator device could be built with about $500 worth of parts?

Now, a rapidly assembled volunteer team of engineers, physicians, computer scientists, and others, centered at MIT, is working to implement a safe, inexpensive alternative for emergency use, which could be built quickly around the world. The key to the simple, inexpensive ventilator alternative is a hand-operated plastic pouch called a bag-valve resuscitator, or “Ambu bag”, which hospitals already have on hand in large quantities.

Clinical and design considerations will be published online. This MIT-based team’s goal is to support rapid scale-up of device production to alleviate hospital shortages. Click here for more information.

Open-source, low-cost ventilator by MIT-based team

The new device fits around an Ambu bag (blue), which hospitals have on hand in abundance. Instead of being squeezed by hand, they are squeezed by mechanical paddles (center) driven by a small motor. Credit: Courtesy of the researchers

Open-source, low-cost ventilator by MIT-based team

This shows the setup used for preliminary testing of an earlier version of the low-cost prototype design that could provide rapid deployment to hospitals facing shortages of the vital equipment. Credit: Courtesy of the researchers

How would ride-sharing affect spreading?
Last but not least, with concerns about spreading processes with regard to Coronavirus, TU Delft researchers, Rafał Kucharski and Oded Cats examined how ride-sharing services contribute to exacerbating the epidemic. On the one hand, travelers would be exposed to co-riders that might be infected. On the other, the limited connectivity of the underlying network may impede the spreading.

The results? The researchers deployed an epidemiological model to examine 3000 ride-sharing travelers in Amsterdam and revealed that the prevailing ride-sharing network results with limited spreading. Learn more about the results here >>

Hungry for more inspiration?
This is merely a selection of all the innovative research that takes place world-wide. Click here for the overview page by TU Delft. This page contains more information about research carried out by WUR into vaccine development, research into contagious animal diseases, and about diagnostic work.