University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Develops Robot to Sterilize Spaces

Ultraviolet light is a form of radiation that can be used for sterilization and disinfection. With schools and offices beginning to meet in-person again despite little change in the rate of COVID-19 infections, easy, low-cost sterilization strategies are necessary to curb the spread of the pandemic. To meet this lofty demand, The Grainger College of Engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Health Care Engineering Systems Center has developed the UVBot: a robot that can be built out of easily accessible objects and programmed to clean spaces using UV light, which kills COVID-19.

In May 2020, HCESC director T. Kesh Kesavadas had an idea to create a low-cost robot that could be used to sterilize common areas such as classrooms, offices, and public transportation. He reached out to Helen Nguyen, professor of civil and environmental engineering and leader of the Illinois PPE team in The Grainger College of Engineering at UIUC. Nguyen, who has an extensive background in sterilization and UV light, saw the value in this idea and proposed to add a UV light to the robot. “From several studies conducted by my lab over the year, we know that commonly used UV irradiation is effective in inactivating or neutralizing SARS-CoV-2, and virus inactivation depends not only on the UV intensive but also the exposure time,” said Nguyen. “To control the exposure time precisely and to prevent humans from exposure to harmful UV light, we need something like a robot.”

While these autonomous robots do exist, they can cost as much as $50,000. “It’s a difficult position to be in,” said Kesavadas. “Many companies and schools don’t have the funds necessary to purchase a robot that can disinfect spaces, but it needs to happen if people are returning to on-site work or learning. Our robot serves as a low-cost alternative and can be made for under $1,000.”

Kesavadas and Nguyen decided to move forward on the project and put together an interdisciplinary team of engineers from HCESC, Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab, Mechanical Engineering, and Veterinary Biosciences: Yao Li, Harris Nisar, Fanxin Wang, Elbashir Araud, and Jump ARCHES summer intern Peter Chien. The result of their teamwork is the UVBot: made from a Roomba robot, UV lamp, and 3D-printed parts, the UVBot can be controlled by a mobile app over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and programmed to autonomously clean many different types of spaces. It even has the ability to record and create a library of rooms. Since UV light is dangerous to skin and eyes without protective equipment, this robot is ideal for safe cleaning since it can autonomously plan its path or be controlled remotely on a smartphone. Users would be exposed to neither UV light nor COVID-19.

The team had to navigate creating the robot through the challenges of a pandemic, where remote work and social distancing of utmost importance. Simulation engineer Harris Nisar lead the mechanical design and fabrication of the robot. “I had a great time planning the build. Of course, because of COVID, there were tremendous challenges in getting work done that required tools or facilities such as 3D printers and laser cutters, but we worked through those and learned a lot along the way.”

Intern Peter Chien, a rising junior in mechanical engineering at UIUC, was excited to work on a robotics project and learn new skills that align with his interest in health care technology. “The most fun part of this project for me was designing the hardware, where I was able to take everything I’ve learned in my coursework and apply it to something that will help in the real world,” said Chien. Fabricating the hardware involved designing mounts for the UV lamp and making sure that they fit securely onto the Roomba. Chien was also involved in designing the mobile app to control the robot over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with Li and Wang. “Designing the software has been a great learning experience; it was difficult to get started but this knowledge will definitely be useful in the future,” said Chien. The robot is able to successfully navigate rooms autonomously by using advanced sensors or controlled by a smartphone.

The UVBot promises 99% virus inactivation. The required exposure time and distance for inactivation was systematically tested using an RNA virus similar to COVID-19: Tulane virus. The team successfully conducted a test inside the Health Care Engineering Systems Center facilities to demonstrate the prototype’s feasibility as a solution for disinfection.

Kesavadas, Nguyen, and their team were passionate about creating a solution that could be created and implemented by anyone, so they are planning to publish the design, bill of material, software, and environment test data as an open access project on GitHub. Any organization with basic engineering capabilities will be able to download and reproduce the UVBot system. A provisional patent has been filed. Contact HCESC to obtain the technology here: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/867704172.

The inventors acknowledge the support of the Jump Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and the Health Care Engineering Systems Center in The Grainger College of Engineering.

While the UVBot has proven successful, the team is still eager to improve the design with better collision detection, autonomous detection to shut off UV light when a human is detected, and software to support multiple UVBots functioning in the same network.

“It is our hope that schools and organizations feel confident enough in our work to create and utilize the UVBot for themselves,” said Kesavadas. “Reopening our country’s schools and offices safely is a huge task, and we are proud to be a small part of it.”

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides clinical immersion and fosters collaboration between engineers and physicians. HCESC designs collaborative solutions to improve health care outcomes utilizing interdisciplinary expertise in simulation technologies, smart health systems, data analytics, human factors, and medical robotics. HCESC manages the Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Learn more about the Health Care Engineering Systems Center and Jump ARCHES here: https://healtheng.illinois.edu/.

HCESC Assists in Developing AQovent

Leading aerospace precision engineering and manufacturing company Aequs, based in India, has collaborated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop AQovent, a medical-grade, low-cost, and mass-produced mechanical resuscitator to provide constant flow, pressure-cycled ventilation automatically to patients in respiratory distress. Aequs is manufacturing these respirators in India based on a license procured from the concept design for the Illinois RapidVent, which was released by the University of Illinois in March 2020.

“At Aequs, we stand in solidarity with the government and medical fraternity in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aequs CEO and chairman Aravind Melligeri. “AQovent, one of Aequs’s most timely innovations, is a low-cost and indigenously developed resuscitator, operates without a power source, and is hassle-free. The design of AQovent lends itself well to a high level of scalability, enabling us to ramp up production to meet the surge in demand.”

AQovent is engineered to suit Indian conditions without compromising its functional integrity and to enable ease of manufacturing and reduce lead time, thereby making it conducive for mass production.

“We at the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at The Grainger College of Engineering feel privileged to have been catalysts for this wonderful partnership between Aequs and the University of Illinois resulting in AQovent,” said T. Kesh Kesavadas, director of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center and professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering at Illinois. “We look forward to witnessing the positive effects it is sure to have on many lives.”

AQovent operates directly on oxygen, making it ideal for deployment in on-electrified locations and ambulances due to its portability, or in situations with limited medical facilities. These single-use resuscitators are compact and easily deployable for treating patients affected by COVID-19 and other respiratory conditions.

“The launch of the AQovent and its potential for impact is inspiring. We are delighted that Aequs can leverage the Illinois RapidVent to aid in the fight against COVID-19,” said William King, leader of the Illinois RapidVent project and professor in the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering.

“We are thrilled that a design created by a team of engineers at the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering will be used to help those around the world,” added Rashid Bashir, dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “This is exactly what our engineers had in mind during our process and we are looking forward to seeing the impact it will have in India. Thank you to Aequs.”

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center was established in 2014 and has grown as a research center where engineering meets medicine in innovative ways, playing leadership roles in simulation, health data analytics, and medical robotics activities on campus at the University of Illinois. They manage the Jump Simulation Center, a 6,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art simulation and education center housed on the University of Illinois campus, established by a $10 million gift from Jump Trading. It is equipped with manikin-based simulators and virtual reality tools to meet the needs of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the first medical school in the nation focused- from the beginning- on the intersection of engineering and medicine. The Jump Simulation Center is the culmination of several years of planning; in 2014, a $62.5 million gift established the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between the existing Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare in Peoria and HCESC at the University of Illinois. Through this partnership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is striving to expand health care engineering technology so that it is accessible, beneficial, and revolutionary in training everyone from novice medical professionals to the most experienced clinicians.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center partners with several health care organizations internationally, including in India, and welcomes all potential collaborations and partnerships. To learn more about HCESC, their simulation technology, and collaboration, please visit https://healtheng.illinois.edu/.

University of Illinois Faculty — Supported by Jump Partnership –Develops Simple N95 Respirator Mask Decontamination Technology with Microwave Oven Plasmas

From https://grainger.illinois.edu/news/36984.

In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals faced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), especially N95 respirator masks. As COVID-19 cases rebound across the nation and we face another potential shortage, the question of how to decontaminate N95 respirator masks remains. Fortunately, a team led by nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering professor David Ruzic has proven results of a solution that could be used to decontaminate respirator masks using a microwave oven, funded by a $30,000 grant from the Jump ARCHES endowment. Jump Applied Research in Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and the Health Care Engineering Systems Center in The Grainger College of Engineering.

Professor Ruzic’s strategy consists of creating a plasma inside the microwave oven using common household supplies including ceramic coffee cups, wire, hydrogen peroxide, and saline solution. The combination of these materials allows for creation of an intense plasma, which can decontaminate the mask within approximately 30 seconds. View this video on Professor Ruzic’s “Illinois EnergyProf” YouTube channel to learn about the process.

“This technology would enable hospitals, nursing homes, and first responders to use a microwave oven to decontaminate masks with materials they already have on hand,” Ruzic said. “We have shown that 30 seconds of plasma exposure is sufficient to kill viruses and have submitted our findings to the CDC’s Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases. We have also sent treated masks to the CDC for testing and passed their filtration and fit standards, even after three cycles of decontamination.” A preprint of the work is available in MedRXiv.

Professor Ruzic’s team includes Illinois civil and environmental engineering Professor Helen Nguyen and Jump Simulation and Education Center engineer Brent Cross. Professor Nguyen’s research group specializes in environmental engineering with an emphasis on pathogen transmission and control. They have the facilities to test and expertise to determine the extent exposure to the plasma can inactivate the viruses on N95 respirator masks. University of Illinois civil and environmental engineering Professor Vishal Verma’s group also assisted with measurement to ensure the treatment did not compromise the integrity and filtration efficiency of the respirator masks.

“Professors Helen Nguyen, Vishal Verma, and their students have been fantastic co-workers,” Ruzic said. “Without them, we would have had no idea if this technology was useful. I’d like to note also that some of the initial ideas came from Starfire Industries, and its help is also very much appreciated. I look forward to working with OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana and greatly appreciate the funding from Jump ARCHES. We recently demonstrated this technique to OSF, and their leaders were extremely impressed, and were   excited they could easily replicate the process themselves.”

Ruzic and his team hope that this technology will prove useful  as conservation efforts continue for N95 respirator masks. Knowing there is a potential solution could provide peace of mind for medical providers.

“In case of real shortages, we would consider this technique a key tool in keeping our staff and patients safe,” John Kreckman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana said.

In March 2020, the Jump ARCHES program  sent out an emergency request for proposals addressing the pandemic, and Ruzic’s proposal was one of 17 accepted for funding. View the other 16 research projects here. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants to engineers and physicians from OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois system working together to combat problems in health care.

Next steps for Professor Ruzic and his team include introducing the technology to the OSF Peoria Campus and waiting acceptance to the CDC’s Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases. This strategy should not be applied for use by individuals seeking to decontaminate cloth masks or N95 masks at home. This information is designed for use by health care and supporting agencies.   

OSF HealthCare is an integrated health system owned and operated by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare employs more than 23,600 Mission Partners in 147 locations, including 14 hospitals – 10 acute care, four critical access – with 2,097 licensed beds, and two colleges of nursing throughout Illinois and Michigan. The OSF HealthCare physician network employs more than 1,500 primary care, specialists and advanced practice providers, who are part of the OSF Medical Group. OSF HealthCare, through OSF Home Care Services, operates an extensive network of home health and hospice services. It also owns Pointcore Inc., comprised of health care-related businesses; OSF HealthCare Foundation , the philanthropic arm for the organization; and OSF Ventures , which provides investment capital for promising health care innovation startups.

University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering: As one of the world’s top ranked engineering programs, their students, faculty, and alumni set the standard for excellence. The College is focused on driving the economy, reimagining engineering education, and bringing revolutionary ideas to the world. They work to solve the world’s greatest challenges and look toward the future to find ways to make it a reality. Learn more about the College of Engineering at https://grainger.illinois.edu/.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center (HCESC) of the University of Iillinois Grainger College of Engineering provides clinical immersion and fosters collaboration between engineers and physicians. The goal is to use our expertise in the broad areas of simulation technologies, smart health systems, data analytics, human factors, and medical robotics to design and develop collaborative solutions that improve health care outcomes. HCESC partners with Jump Simulation of OSF HealthCare at Peoria, Illinois, in this innovative relationship of Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES). Learn more about HCESC at https://healtheng.illinois.edu/

Jump Simulation, a part of OSF Innovation, is a collaboration between University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and OSF HealthCare. The Jump center replicates a variety of patient care settings to ensure novice and seasoned clinicians can practice handling medical situations in a life-like environment. Boasting six floors and 168,000 square feet, the center is one of the largest of its kind and provides space for conferences, anatomic training, virtual reality and innovation. For more information, visit www.jumpsimulation.org.

The University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) educates 244 medical students and nearly 300 physician residents annually. The College of Medicine is home to the Cancer Research Center, the Center for Outcomes Research, and a collaborator in Jump Simulation. Learn more about UICOMP at http://peoria.medicine.uic.edu

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Jump ARCHES Endowment-funded N95 Mask Design & Proposal Update

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center (HCESC), part of The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is pleased to report on the significant progress of a proposal to develop personal protective equipment (PPE), namely N95 respirators, for local healthcare systems to help protect their staff against COVID-19. The proposal was funded by the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois.

The team, led by principal investigator Jeremy Guest, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, has developed prototypes in collaboration with ShapeMaster, Inc. in Ogden, IL. The first quantitative fit test was performed at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL, where the team found that their N95 respirator mask prototype outperformed disposable N95 masks for fit and seal. The second round of fit testing is currently taking place at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana. After the current round of testing is finished, next steps include minor modifications to the design, additional prototype fabrication, and further testing including NIOSH filtration testing at a certified laboratory. Once final prototyping, fabrication, and testing are completed, the team will post the open-source designs online for anyone to manufacture.

“The goal of this project is to leverage the collective resources and expertise of the University of Illinois, OSF HealthCare, Carle Foundation Hospital, ShapeMaster, and other local groups to respond to the urgent and sustained need for N95 respirators,” said principal investigator Jeremy Guest. “The team is working to develop a clear, NIOSH-compliant N95 respirator that, with filter cartridge replacement, can be sanitized and reused for weeks or months.” The PPE shortage has forced many healthcare providers to reuse disposable masks that are intended for only one use. This project will both help alleviate that problem and make it easier on those who are deaf or hard of hearing to read the lips of people wearing the clear masks.

This proposal was submitted in response to the Jump ARCHES Priority Call that was announced in March to attract projects addressing COVID-19 and other pandemics. Guest’s co-primary investigators from OSF HealthCare in Peoria are Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, and John F. Kreckman, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP. In addition to affiliates from OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois, the team has been working with Carle Foundation Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, ShapeMaster, Inc., and TEKMILL to develop the respirator. Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Over the last four years, this endowment has funded 38 proposals totaling over $2 million to researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and OSF HealthCare systems. Learn more about Jump ARCHES here.

Spring 2020 Jump ARCHES Grants Focus on Rapid Solutions for COVID-19 Response

Seventeen research projects are sharing nearly $800,000 in funding through the Jump ARCHES research and development program. The Jump Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) program is a partnership between OSF HealthCare and The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois (U of I) at Urbana-Champaign.

These projects were submitted to an unprecedented special call for Jump ARCHES proposals to address COVID-19, pandemics, and other public health crises through smart health, data analytics, AI, and other technologies. The ARCHES program supports research involving clinicians, engineers, and social scientists from OSF HealthCare, University of Illinois, and U of I College of Medicine in Peoria (UICOMP) to develop technologies and devices that could revolutionize medical training and health care delivery.

A requirement of the grant applications was for solutions that could be deployed quickly, within four to six weeks.

“In this crisis mode where we are all working to leverage Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center and our talents to improve service for patients affected by COVID-19, the synergistic effect of engineering and clinical service breaks down traditional barriers and gets us more quickly to much-needed solutions,” said
Dr. John Vozenilek, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Jump Simulation Center in Peoria.

“When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we felt that it was our responsibility to help researchers find solutions,” said T. Kesh Kesavadas, of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at U of I at Urbana-Champaign and Engineer-in-Chief of Jump ARCHES.

View a brief summary of each project here.

A Message from the Director – T. Kesh Kesavadas

The health care and engineering fields are home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most groundbreaking technologies. When combined, I believe that we can rise to the challenge of conquering the most difficult and frightening of tasks. Today, we have COVID-19 consuming every facet of our lives, testing our health care systems and our abilities to work together.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center at Illinois (HCESC) is proud to contribute in the fight against COVID-19. Most prominently, we have formed a COVID-19 Task Force to assist both the local and the university community in planning for and predicting the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Illinois. The Task Force consists of leading computer scientists and health care professionals from The Grainger College of Engineering and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and OSF HealthCare have been extremely helpful in collecting and distributing data to the Task Force on a daily basis.

The Task Force has launched a COVID-19 webpage on the Health Care Engineering Systems Center site to share the latest information and resources.  The webpage also provides direct connections to various centers and faculty in the campus community with expertise in community health and data analytics. The page is updated daily with local data and regularly with blog features regarding developments in the campus community towards COVID-19.

HCESC has been working with Carle Foundation Hospital and OSF HealthCare’s COVID-19 preparedness groups to assist them through tele-medicine. Our tele-medicine group has been working to identify and deploy sensors that will monitor patients at home with the goal of reducing the influx of patients to emergency departments. This will have a tremendous impact on our community’s ability to combat COVID-19 and allow hospital capacity for anyone in need of treatment. Additional areas being explored are computation modeling different patient physiological conditions to test ventilators as a cyber-physical system.

Jump Simulation Center at the University of Illinois, an important part of HCESC, is actively engaged in several COVID-19 research projects, most notably the Illinois RapidVent. We have been testing the Illinois RapidVent on patient simulators as well as creating a virtual reality training module on using the device. I would like to extend praise to HCESC and Jump Simulation Center team members Harris Nisar and Shandra Jamison for their hard work on this project. Anusha Muralidharan is also working hard on the PPE stream to test fitness and performance of the filtration systems in the simulation center.

In early March, we announced a Jump ARCHES priority call for proposals in need of immediate funding for COVID-19 and pandemic-related research projects. Over the last two weeks we have helped over twenty investigators to form research teams while also setting immediate research goals for the COVID-19 priority call. We are impressed at the wide range of research that investigators have proposed in this priority call from design of new techniques for rapid testing of viruses to using AI for modeling. We are expecting to make several high-impact awards in the coming days. One award we are excited to contribute towards is to address the needs of N95 masks for front line healthcare providers in our local community. Jump ARCHES has funded this proposal by primary investigator Jeremy Guest of UIUC and co-primary investigators Jared C. Rogers and John F. Kreckman of OSF HealthCare, and Brent Cross of Jump Education and Simulation Center. You can read more about this project here.

I am also pleased to note that we plan to continue the popular Jump ARCHES summer internship this year as a virtual internship program. We plan on providing students with kits that they can use at home to work on health care projects.

Finally, we are happy to report that the COVID-19 Virtual Summit, which was held on April 6, 2020, was very productive and informational. This summit brought together healthcare providers, industry professionals, and experts in data to discuss research, ideas, outcomes, and challenges regarding COVID-19. The summit was open to the public and over 125 people participated. If you would like more information or to view a recording of the summit, please visit this page.

We are working with the campus to provide a safe community for students this fall. I am confident that the health care engineering field will make significant contributions in combatting COVID-19 and future pandemic illnesses that our world may face. While times may be difficult now and in the near future, I trust that we will emerge from this situation with groundbreaking technologies and a profound sense of community that will assist us in facing any challenges the future may bring.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe, stay healthy, and do your part.

Sincerely,

T. Kesh Kesavadas

Director, Health Care Engineering Systems Center

From the Experts: Carolyn Beck, Ph.D.

Carolyn Beck, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at the UIUC, responds to a question she received during the COVID-19 Virtual Summit panel discussion on Monday, April 6, 2020. This question was asked in response to Professor Beck, Professor Sergei Maslov, and Professor Nigel Goldenfeld’s separate talks on epidemiological compartment modeling.

Question: Could you explain the difference in the possible uses of your models? Since they use different methodology, would they be useful for different purposes?

Answer from Professor Beck:

We are actually starting from the same place in our modeling: epidemiological compartment models. The models I discussed were what we call SIS models (susceptible-infected-susceptible), as the simplest example of compartment models. I then discussed incorporating network structures into these models, which means that you need to think about the dynamics of the disease over a mathematical graph. So, now we think about the nodes as their own little compartments, with some probability of infection, as interconnected to other nodes via edges in the graph, which may have varying weights or strengths.

Professor Maslov and Professor Goldenfeld were also discussing epidemiological compartment models. They discussed SEIR models (susceptible-exposed-infected-recovered). These are more specifically relevant to COVID-19, and they are looking at estimating the model parameters from data taken in different geographical areas (although I believe they have mostly focused on Illinois and the Chicago area).

To connect these models, we might take the distinct geographical area models that Professors Maslov and Goldenfeld have estimated, then look at human mobility and/or traffic patterns between these areas and connect them with network-like structures to arrive at the networked epidemiological models I discussed.

To view Professor Beck and Maslov’s talks, see the COVID-19 Virtual Summit here.

Conversations from the COVID-19 Virtual Summit Panel Discussion

On Monday, April 6, 2020, the Health Care Engineering Systems Center held the COVID-19 Virtual Summit featuring medical professionals and data scientists from both within and outside of UIUC to discuss the challenges of COVID-19 on local, regional, statewide, and national levels. The summit was comprised of 12 individual talks and a panel discussion. Together with panel moderator Roy Campbell, Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, we’ve put together a summary of the most important points from our panel discussion.

Panelists included:

  • Tamer Basar, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Carolyn Beck, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Cheng-Kai Kai, M.D., University of Chicago
  • David Liebovitz, M.D., Northwestern University
  • Sergei Maslov, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Richard Novak, M.D., University of Illinois at Chicago

Challenges, Recommendations, and Takeaways:

  1. There are many organizational issues regarding testing facilities. David Liebovitz, M.D., said that drive-through COVID-19 testing facilities have a longer turnaround compared to inpatient testing. Cheng-Kai Kao, M.D., pointed out that while there are ways to scale up testing, test accuracy may be much lower than expected.
  2. Low-income and minority populations are at high risk. There is a higher instance of the spread, morbidity, and mortality due to COVID-19 among low-income and minority populations in the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs. While this is true of many diseases, Richard Novak, M.D., cited additional reasons being limited resources of fast testing practices, and homeless shelters, prisons, and retirement homes being shared facilities with a lack of space to self-isolate and social distance.
  3. Pandemic best practices are generally not applied well in rural areas. Richard Novak, M.D., pointed out that policies such as universal masking are useful when implemented early, but often are not. Sergei Maslov, Ph.D., added that the implementation of social distancing is very different between counties and that many people in rural downstate areas did not start to social distance when more heavily-populated areas began to do so. Carolyn Beck, Ph.D., was concerned about the lack of data to reflect different transmission rates in rural areas. Tamer Basar, Ph.D., noted that enforcing stay-at-home orders will soon become a major challenge as the weather gets warmer and people tire of remaining inside.
  4. Supply chain issues that hospitals and essential workers are experiencing, such as the shortage of PPE and other equipment, will continue. There is not yet enough data to determine whether supply chain issues will affect other industries. Carolyn Beck, Ph.D., mentioned that models exist to assist care providers with mitigating these supply chain issues.
  5. Current prediction models are not sufficient. Sergei Maslov, Ph.D., stressed that decision makers rely on accurate models, but many things are contributing to the current lack of accuracy. One contributing factor is the lack of testing data, and another is too little progress being made in heterogeneous modeling. Tamer Basar, Ph.D., confirmed and encouraged to develop models that allow for any discrepancies between regions. For example, it is unknown how receptive the population will be to new COVID-related policies and how that will influence further spread of the disease.

Our expert panelists touched on several issues related to COVID-19, however the above themes were the most prevalent. Are you interested in hearing the full discussion from our expert panelists? View the panel, which begins at 43:15, here.

From the Experts: Tamer Başar, Ph.D.

Tamer Başar, Director of the Center for Advanced Study and Swanlund Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UIUC, responds to two questions he received during the COVID-19 Virtual Summit panel discussion on Monday, April 6.

Question from Deanna DeBord: Was our country’s response to COVID-19 strong and quick enough? If not, should we have known to respond stronger and quicker based on previous epidemics and how can we best prevent the next novel virus from crippling entire countries?

Answer from Dr. Başar:

Thanks for the questions. Unfortunately, our country’s response was substantially delayed, and even then it was only incremental. When it was already known what kind of devastation COVID-19 was bringing first to China and then to Europe (particularly Italy) and the havoc it was creating, we should have learned from the experiences those hot spots were gaining, and at least should have started the planning process for handling the eventual spread of epidemics in the country. This planning process would have entailed, among others, (1) having an appropriate response mechanism in place, (2) making sure that a sufficient number of testing centers are created and distributed across the country according to population densities, (3) making sure that hospitals have the capacity and isolated chambers to handle all cases in their communities in a worst-case scenario,  (4) making sure that there is a sufficient supply of high-quality masks to meet their needs, and (5) making sure that the supply chain for other essential goods and products would not be disrupted. This planning process should have started back in January, and from what I know, none of this was done. Of course, since the virus did not originate in our country, an early effective measure would have been to ban travel into the country, particularly from already-infected countries, since coronavirus is carried by people and not by any other means. If not total banning at early stages, we should at least have applied conclusive testing to incoming passengers and quarantine those who test positive. Again, none of this was done early enough. Yes, we banned travel from China at some point, and much later from Europe (and in stages), but it was too little, too late. There’s evidence that most, if not all of the active cases in the country (except for Seattle) are due to the virus being carried in by people coming from Europe. Once carriers are in the country and are not concentrated at one location, and you allow travel across state lines, you would definitely have diffusion to the entire country. One then has to move to phase two and try to contain the epidemics to the extent possible (and make sure that all the measures I have listed earlier are in place). So, this is the situation we’re facing now.

The above also partially answers your last question, as to how we can prevent the next wave from crippling the entire world. If the next virus is a mutation of the current one, then there will not be a single country where it will originate at, and what we face would be the second phase I discussed above. If it is a totally new virus that originates in a single country, then we will have to do an instant quarantining of that country (to be agreed to by all nations), or relevant locality of that country, and take strict measures not to allow for travel out of that infected region. I hope we have learned valuable lessons from the current pandemics, to be able to handle any future one more effectively.

Question from Kesh Kesavadas: Should states do sampling by random testing?

Answer from Dr. Başar: Thanks for the question. Of course, all those who show symptoms should be tested. Assuming that there’s some excess capacity for testing, but not enough to test everyone (as it was done in South Korea), then I think random sampling-based testing is the way to go, but in two stages. When we talk about random sampling, there’s always an underlying distribution. If no prior information is available, then uniform sampling is the most logical one (that is, prior is uniform). But the outcome of the testing as a result of that uniform sampling may lead to a non-uniform posterior, which is why I advocate a two-stage sampling, where at the second stage the posterior of the first stage is used as a prior for the distribution. In any case, indeed some randomness (but an informed one) should be used in the testing process of those who do not show any symptoms (but could be potential carriers).

Thank you Dr. Başar for your participation in the panel discussion and answering these questions post-summit!

Jump ARCHES Endowment Funds University of Illinois N95 Mask Design & Fabrication Proposal

Jump ARCHES is pleased to announce the funding of proposal for the fabrication of personal protective equipment (PPE), namely N95 respirators, for local healthcare systems to help protect their staff against COVID-19. Jump ARCHES is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois.

This proposal was submitted in response to the Jump ARCHES Priority Call that was announced in March to attract projects addressing COVID-19 and other pandemics. The primary investigator of this project from the University of Illinois is Jeremy Guest, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering. The co-primary investigators from OSF HealthCare in Peoria are Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, Regional President OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center and John F. Kreckman, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP, Chief Medical Officer, Vice President of Medical Affairs OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center, Urbana IL, and Brent Cross, Simulation Engineer at Jump Education and Simulation Center, Peoria IL.

Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Over the last four years, this endowment has funded 38 proposals totaling over $2 million to researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and OSF HealthCare systems. Learn more here.