BioBE Partners with OHSU for New COVID-19 Study

May 20, 2020

gloved hands gathering a sample on a vent with a swab

The Biology and the Built Environment Center (BioBE), one of the College of Design research centers, is partnering withOregon Health & Science University (OHSU) for a study to learn how the new coronavirus is dispersed in the air and onto surfaces in a hospital setting, information vital to all hospitals, health care workers and the public.

“We hope the findings help optimize building operational parameters, such as fresh air rate and filtration, and eventually help guide the development of technology to monitor indoor microbiomes in real time to enhance safety,” said architecture professor Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, who is the UO project lead and co-director of the center and director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment.

“It’s a unique, interdisciplinary relationship—scientists and architects—that allows us to understand how design can influence patterns of behavior,” said Mark Fretz, BioBE associate director of outreach and an architecture research assistant professor.

The study not only will examine factors that affect the dispersal of genetic material from the coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, in the environment but also will explore new ways to determine whether any of this genetic material remains present in the form of virus particles that are potentially infectious.

The partnership highlights the value of teaching students design within a research university.

“As this pandemic is putting into sharp focus, design and human health are inseparable,” Moore said. “In the face of serious global challenges, it is especially important to develop aggressive, creative innovators who can connect the power of design with good science and rigorous ethical thinking.”

Read more about the study in the Around the O story “UO, OHSU to study new coronavirus in a hospital setting.”