This message was sent to MBI Members on Friday, March 27, 2020 from MBI & Fixel Institute leadership and the MBI Executive Committee
This has been a challenging two weeks. Business is anything but “as usual.” We are concerned about the health and well-being of not just our friends, families and colleagues, but also the broader community. We are all trying to do our part to “flatten the curve” and ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed. There have also been several emails about potential coronavirus exposures in MBI laboratories, with one case confirmed. Thankfully, to our knowledge and to date, no one in our neuroscience research community has suffered serious consequences of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. Let’s try our collective best to keep it that way.
There have also been a series of emails and postings from the UF Office of Research, the HSC’s VP’s office and ACS about required reduction of research activities to those that are “essential research.” These policies and other guidance can be found here: research.ufl.edu/covid-19-updates.html. I know most, if not all, MBI affiliated laboratories and research personnel have seen these emails and the web postings and have acted or are acting to dramatically reduce or stop animal, human subject and wet-bench research activities. There is no doubt this process is extremely stressful; we have a lot invested in our research studies and it is difficult to imagine shutting things down to the degree that we need to. Again, as MBI director, I would insist that every PI and laboratory follow the guidelines from the Office of Research. If you have not forwarded your essential research form and provided information on those who you deem essential research personnel, you will not be permitted to continue research activities. It must be deemed “essential.” Essential research does not just pertain to animal research or human subject research, but to all on-site research activities. If you are not approved, you will need to simply shut it down.
Most of us are not expert epidemiologists, virologists, infectious disease specialist or immunologists; this does not mean that you do not have something to potentially contribute to COVID-19 research efforts. For example, our science writer Michelle Jaffee just wrote a story on UF investigators creating an inexpensive ventilator prototype. In this vein, the MBI will consider funding to support research initiatives related to COVID-19, especially if they align with extramural funding opportunities pertaining to COVID-19. If you have ideas of how your laboratory could do something to help with study of COVID-19, then those efforts, even if new initiatives, would likely be deemed essential research.
Dr. Stephen Sugrue’s office reached out to researchers last week to help collect PPE from the research community. The response was outstanding and we thank all of those in the MBI, CTRND and larger UF community who contributed. The MBI/CTRND efforts were led by Drs. Jen Bizon, Jada Lewis and Malu Tansey, and assisted on the ground by Dave Fromholt and Jake Boles, all of whom deserve a big shout out. Again, we do not know what the future holds, but we may need our research teams to step up and respond to the pandemic in some way. If such needs arise, we will make sure that you are informed about how you can help.
As we transition into a period of dramatically reduced on-site research activities, we need to find creative ways to stay connected and advance our research missions. Each of us have been thinking about and implementing plans for our laboratories to work remotely on papers, collaborative grants, review articles, new courses and/or research tools. We will be gathering input on how the MBI can help the larger neuroscience community to stay engaged. If you have ideas please email me or any member of the MBI Executive Committee to discuss. As a start, I am proposing a weekly, online UF Neuroscience/Neuromedicine seminar series that we will try to launch by the second week of April. I am volunteering to lead the first presentation, as I have not presented my labs work on campus for several years. We will try to figure out a time for this series that does not conflict with ongoing activities in departments, so stay tuned. And, if you are interested in presenting online let me know!
If you are a trainee or junior faculty member who has an idea about how we can support you through this challenging time, do not hesitate to reach out to Drs. Jennifer Bizon, Jada Lewis and Gordon Mitchell.
The joy of science is in discovery. We must now use our creativity to discover new ways to function as scientists. This is disruptive, but in the end, it will make us stronger and more resilient. So please think about ways the MBI and Fixel Institute can help to keep us on the discovery track; we will listen and do our best to help implement your ideas!
Todd Golde, Steven DeKosky, Jada Lewis, Mike Okun, Kelly Foote & the MBI Executive Committee