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5/4/2020 - Jackson, Miss.

The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every facet of Mississippians' lives and the economic impact of the disease is one of the most severe. The economic piece of the recovery will be critical for the future of the state and economic development will play a key role in helping the state's economy rebound from the pandemic.

This week marks Mississippi Economic Development Week, which highlights what economic development is and how it shapes communities throughout the state. Mississippi Public Universities play a integral role in economic development in Mississippi. As centers of innovations, public universities have a wealth of resources, from human resources to research capabilities, to support economic development engines across the state.

The pandemic has brought to light the many ways that universities innovate to solve problems. Mississippi State University mechanical engineering students turned a conventional truck toolbox into a device that will sterilize face masks for the university's John C. Longest Student Health Center staff.

A team of two students, Ryden Smith, a mechanical engineering graduate student and Wesley Cameron, a senior mechanical engineering major, under the leadership of researchers at MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, built and tested the device before delivering it to the health center in mid-April. Built using low-cost materials, the device can sterilize 15-20 masks in minutes, filling a need for the health center during the COVID-19 pandemic and a nationwide shortage of masks.

A collaboration between health care providers at Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic and researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) helped to boost to efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic through increased COVID-19 testing.

Researchers at USM's Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), housed at USM, provided technical laboratory support through preparing viral transport media (VTM) that has been used by Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic to transport samples to outside labs and developing a workflow to perform up to 50 high-priority tests a day, with a turn-around time of 24 hours or less, and with the possibility of scaling up if urgently needed.

The collaboration combined a pair of leading health care entities with a Carnegie R1 research institution for the benefit of Mississippians in the battle with COVID-19.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has worked tirelessly to test citizens across the state for COVID-19 through drive-through testing sites in counties across the state, while treating Mississippians who have contracted the disease and finding innovative ways to address the myriad challenges brought on by the disease.

UMMC worked with the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi National Guard to establish one-day mobile collections for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left hospitals in short supply of personal protective equipment and medical supplies. Hospitals have wondered if they will have enough ventilators to support all the patients who need them.

Dr. Charles Robertson, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has built about 170 ventilators of his own design to use in the event of a shortage, doubling the Medical Center's supply. The ventilators were built using approximately $50 worth of materials, all of which are commonly available at a hardware store.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is also launching as many as nine clinical studies related to COVID-19 treatment. The trials are designed for people with COVID-19 who are ill enough to require hospitalization or intensive care, not those who are asymptomatic or able to recover from the disease at home.

These examples of innovation demonstrate the value that public universities bring to the economic development efforts across the state. These efforts will be a key factor in Mississippi's recovery from the pandemic and its economic impact.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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