Essex researchers rise to COVID-19 challenge

  • Date

    Wed 8 Apr 20

Aerial view of our Colchester Campus

Researchers across our University - in the faculties of science and health, humanities and social sciences - are actively responding to the many issues posed by the international COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak including the development of effective treatments.

Researching treatments and modelling responses 

Our Life Science researchers are gearing up to investigate different strategies to block the virus from infecting the lungs and reduce the inflammatory response.  If successful, these projects would provide new treatment options for the disease. They are also looking at working in partnership with colleagues in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering on a nanotechnology approach to COVID-19 treatment and other projects will see them join forces with other universities in the UK and across Europe.

The School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering and Department of Mathematical Sciences are also closely involved in a number of COVID-19 related projects across its areas of expertise including data analytics, data modelling and robotics.

This work builds on partnerships the University has established with Public Health England and the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) to promote collaboration on research in health and wellbeing.

Charting the impact, offering insights, providing training

The current crisis, and government responses to it, also pose serious challenges for law and human rights. This week saw the launch of RightOn, a new, publicly-accessible digital discussion platform, supported by Essex's Human Rights Centre and others, including the United Nations missions to Geneva of the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. The UK Administrative Justice Administrative Justice Institute, based at the School of Law, is  also collating changes to the UK legal system, and tracking which become permanent or long-term.

Many other academics across the University are working on COVID-19 related projects.

Researchers from our Essex Autonomy Project, based in the School of Philosophy and Art History. are providing research support for, and hosting, a series of webinars exploring issues around the care of vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis. The first online event generated huge interest and helped almost 400 care professionals working at the frontline ensure they are protecting the rights of patients in cases where decision-making capacity is impaired.

In the Department of Psychology academics are looking at whether categorising some people as being ‘at risk’ leads to complacency among the wider population and whether public information campaigns which concentrate more on positive outcomes - how many lives are saved, rather than negative ones - the number who have died -could be more effective in getting people to change their behaviour. In a separate study, psychologists are looking at the impact COVID-19 has had on all our lives and how we have adapted to the new situation. Their findings will be invaluable for helping us to cope with any future outbreak.

Meanwhile Essex Business School academics have been looking at a whole range of issues including analysing how a health crisis turned into a global economic crisis, business resilience and the supply chain during the outbreak.

There are too many projects to cover here. We'll be sharing more in the coming weeks on our news pages and on our dedicated @ResearchEssex Twitter feed.

"A significant contribution to the challenges we face" 

Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Christine Raines said: “We have a wide range of expertise in our departments and schools that we are putting into action to address the scientific and social challenges we face in dealing with COVID-19.

“Our researchers have responded really positively and a range of projects are either underway or will start imminently. In relation to our biomedical research, work on COVID-19 has already started, and we are submitting bids to UKRI and other funders who are prioritising support for COVID-19 research. We are sure that the breadth and depth of knowledge of our researchers will enable them to make a significant contribution to the challenges we face with this global pandemic."

  • We are supporting the national #WeAreTogether campaign to showcase all the ways universities - including the University of Essex - are helping the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to share a story please email