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Sandia Labs is working on over 50 virus projects

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Sandia chemist Jessica Kruichak tests hand sanitizer produced by Wayward Sons Craft-Distillery. (Courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)

Sandia National Laboratories has more than 50 COVID-19-related science and technology projects underway that were not in existence at the start of the outbreak in New Mexico 10 weeks ago.

“There are a lot of things going on behind the fences of Sandia,” said Marcey Hoover, director of the Energy and Homeland Security Program Management Center at the labs. “We’ve got the best teams and the best minds trying to help not only our state, but also our country get through the pandemic,” she said.

Hoover discussed some of the efforts during a webinar Wednesday hosted by Economic Forum.

The efforts range from computer modeling to helping researchers track and forecast COVID-19 to helping small businesses like a Santa Fe distillery produce a hand sanitizer when the product was in short supply at the onset of the outbreak.

Hoover said the pandemic “is pulling on” the capabilities that the labs provide.

“We have scientists and engineers that study things like this, fluid dynamics, the performance of complex engineered systems, all of that plays into developing solutions. … Sandia has a deep expertise in bioscience.”

Hoover said a large team at the labs devotes a significant amount of time working on modeling the spread and transmission of COVID-19. The labs have done such work before with infectious diseases, she said, pointing out Sandia’s work during the Ebola virus outbreak.

She said the labs are partnering with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the New Mexico Department of Health on regional modeling to help determine where resources such as pop-up testing centers, medical supplies and medical personnel are needed. Hoover said the modeling takes into account characteristics of a certain region such as the Albuquerque metro area or the northwest corner of the state where the outbreak has hit the hardest.

Hoover said Sandia and LANL are also collaborating with other labs such as Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to develop a statistical model using publicly available data to track the epidemic and its risk that can be used by government officials to undo social distancing and lift other restrictions “in ways that keep the nation physically and economically healthy.”

“The methods we’re working right now can be applied to future pandemics to help minimize the impact on our way of life,” Hoover said.

She also said the labs are looking at developing COVID-19 testing systems and looking at ways to improve the development and manufacturing of personal protective equipment and analyzing decontamination and sanitizing methods for PPE.

“We have some efforts with our bioscience focused on the treatment of COVID-19,” she said. The efforts include how to sequence the coronavirus and how to prevent infections associated with the virus.

Hoover said the labs are also offering free access to intellectual property to COVID-19 researchers.

And the labs have been partnering with local businesses in the area of COVID-19 prevention. Hoover cited the example of Sandia providing expertise to help Wayward Sons Craft-Distillery in Santa Fe develop a hand sanitizer called “Elbow Bump” that met World Health Organization and U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards.

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