As the pandemic brought the world to a halt in 2020, 3M announced in April an initiative to provide $5 million in grants for COVID-19 research and development at leading education institutions in the United States and around the world.
Through a competitive vetting process of multiple universities that are working to develop treatments for COVID-19, ten institutions have been chosen, with funds disbursed to nine so far.
“We provided grants to selected universities, in all the regions of the world, based on their reputation and commitment to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Oyebode Taiwo, corporate medical director at 3M. “These grants will be used in the areas of screening, testing, diagnostics, treatment and prevention of COVID-19.”
Oyebode was joined by members of 3M’s internal Medical R&D Council, including Raymond Chui, VP of R&D for Health Care Business Group, and Ron Silverman, chief medical officer, Medical Solutions Division, to review institutional nominations and provide guidance and insight on global representation. The competitive process and selection of institutions were managed by 3M’s community relations team, 3Mgives. International university grant funding is provided through 3Mgives international grant-making partner, GlobalGiving, to assist in vetting, due diligence and reporting.
The projects funded span four continents and include work in Korea to develop an anti-viral treatment, a study in Dublin of existing drugs for their effect on the virus and for research in Israel that seeks a vaccine to prevent the virus from latching on to receptors in the lungs.
In North America, a grant for $2 million was designated to the University of Minnesota medical school, a federally designated infectious disease containment center. The remaining $3 million was allocated to institutions in Asia, Europe and South America.
The nine grants to date have gone to:
- University of Campinas, Brazil
- Universidad Pontifica Católica, Chile
- Imperial College of London, England
- University of Manchester, England
- Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
- Tel Aviv University, Israel
- University of Tokyo, Japan
- Seoul National University, South Korea
- University of Minnesota, United States
The tenth, Peking University in China, will have funds disbursed at a later date.
The goal of research at Seoul National University, where Professor Lak Shin Jeong has already developed a number of candidate materials to treat RNA viruses like SARS, MERS and Zika, is to develop an anti-viral treatment for the current coronavirus.
“Science is at the heart of 3M and we are committed to advancing the rapid study of the virus as part of our continued effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic” said Jim Falteisek, Vice President of 3M Asia Corporate Affairs and Managing Director of 3M Korea.
At the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’s University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin (pictured below), research will focus on the formation of micro blood clots in the lungs and repurposing an existing drug to help prevent sepsis/septic shock.
“This philanthropic funding will enable two research teams at RCSI to further their important COVID-19 research with the goal of improving the outcomes of people diagnosed with the virus,” said CEO Professor Cathal Kelly.
Professor Jonathan Gershoni, a viral pathogen expert at Tel Aviv University, is aiming to target the virus’ most vulnerable soft spot, its binding mechanism, and prevent it from latching on to receptors present on the surface of lung cells.
“This grant from 3M will significantly enhance our efforts to produce a highly focused, potent and especially safe vaccine for COVID-19,” he said.
These COVID-19 research and development grants are part of a $20 million corporate investment in COVID-19 relief efforts initiated in April 2020. 3M’s support also included:
- $10 million lead sponsorship of Direct Relief's newly formed COVID-19 Fund for Community Health, which provided community health centers with direct financial aid to support healthcare workers. Read about the contributors and recipients of this Fund.
- $5 million to United Way's COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund to support the agency’s work to provide critical resources to vulnerable populations disproportionally affected by the pandemic. The United Way Worldwide helped disburse funding around the world, including investing in hospital infrastructure critical for COVID-19 treatment in India; providing food, hygiene items and health education workshops to high-risk populations in Vietnam; purchasing seedlings and other supplies to help small farmers in Jamaica sustain themselves and their families during the pandemic; increasing students’ access to distance learning technology in Romania; and distributing food, water, hygiene items and COVID-19 education brochures to vulnerable families in South Africa – including partnering with a rugby club to do so.