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University’s infectious disease unit receives $25,000 grant to continue COVID-19 research

The funding will go towards production costs and purchasing equipment for the center.
Image by Emily Pofahl
The Mayo Building, which serves as CIDRAP headquarters, stands on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

The University of Minnesota’s infectious disease unit has received a $25,000 grant to continue their COVID-19 research and education.

The University’s Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy (CIDRAP) researches and produces online content, such as videos, news articles and podcasts on infectious diseases. Throughout the past several months, CIDRAP has focused almost exclusively on COVID-19.

This grant from the Carlson Family Foundation, a Minnesota-based philanthropic group affiliated with the University’s Carlson School of Management, will assist the group of around 30 individuals working at CIDRAP in continuing their work, said Carlos Cruz, director of operations at CIDRAP.

“I would say that actually any funding that we receive or any gifts that we receive … is critical,” Cruz said. “In the current climate, with a number of universities going through tough financial situations, the outpouring of support that we’ve received from foundations and the public has been quite admirable and we’re really thankful for all the support that we have, because we really couldn’t do what we do without the support of other foundations.”

The additional funding was not expected, said Jim Wappes, editorial director of CIDRAP. There was not an application process as is typical with many grants.

“It was completely unexpected and very much appreciated that they had some year-end funding that [the Carlson Family Foundation] then said, ‘We really want to support the CIDRAP effort,’” Wappes said.

The $25,000 grant will go toward covering the general costs of operating CIDRAP, including news and research production costs and salaries for employees.

The unit’s coverage consists of articles, large reports covering different aspects of COVID-19, and a podcast with Michael Osterholm, director of CIDRAP, discussing new research relating to the pandemic. Osterholm was recently added to President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force.

Osterholm does not “sugar coat” the pandemic, which has had a large impact on the community, Wappes said.

“I think this is what is really resonating with people — he provides a deep humanity, he’s not just a scientist, he cares about people, which we know, but it’s great to see the country and the world understanding that aspect of Dr. Osterholm, he is a consummate communicator,” Wappes said.

CIDRAP also takes part in scientific research, sometimes in collaboration with outside labs, in addition to publishing informative content.

Currently, the office is researching the infectious dose of COVID-19, or amount of the virus that is necessary for a person to become infected. Using this information, researchers can then become better informed on the effectiveness of wearing masks, Wappes said.

The Carlson Family Foundation chose to make this contribution to CIDRAP in order to support their ongoing research and education during the pandemic.

“In addition to being an integral part of our community’s health, safety, and well-being, CIDRAP is a global leader in addressing infectious disease response,” said C. David Nelson, executive director of the Carlson Family Foundation in a statement emailed to the Minnesota Daily. “Dr. Michael Osterholm has demonstrated continued leadership in the fight against COVID-19, and the Center’s work is especially important as we navigate a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting the health and economic stability of people of color.”

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