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High Point Joins COVID-19 Research Community

May 4, 2020

While we’re all finding ways to keep busy during the stay-at-home orders, we can forget that there are brilliant men and women all over the world collaborating and working hard to find an effective treatment and vaccine for COVID-19. Every day, scientists and researchers learn new things about the novel coronavirus that could potentially put us one step closer to drastically reducing it’s spread – and saving thousands of lives.

That research is taking place in global facilities, from the NIH to the CDC – but what about research that’s being conducted right here in High Point? That’s right, even our city is taking part in the epic endeavor to better understand the little virus causing worldwide problems.

Dr. Davin Townley-Tilson, instructor of biology at High Point University, decided that in the midst of the crisis, he and his students would use their biology classroom to better understand COVID-19. Despite the challenge of the semester moving to a virtual platform in March, Dr. Townley-Tilson and his students have been using their Principles of Genetics Lab to study and analyze the coronavirus.

r. Davin Townley-Tilson, Instructor of Biology at High Point University
Dr. Davin Townley-Tilson, Instructor of Biology at High Point University | Photo Courtesy of High Point University
The High Point University Congdon School of Health Sciences building.
Photo Courtesy of High Point University

Through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, an NIH-based resource that shows the genetic sequence of COVID-19, HPU students are comparing the genomes of this coronavirus to others in its family. Despite all the damage COVID-19 has done, it is not the first of its kind. “Coronavirus” is the name for a large family of viruses that have been around for a while. By analyzing in real-time this coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, students can uncover previously unknown facets of this virus.

Already the class has learned that unlike the common cold and flu viruses, this novel coronavirus actually mutates pretty slowly, which could give researchers more time to develop an effective vaccine. Dr. Townley-Tilson notes that students are seeing first-hand how their education can lead to solving real-world problems and supporting the greater medical research community.

High Point University student wears a lab coat and looks through a microscope.
Phot Courtesy of High Point University

“The students’ analysis of the novel SARS-CoV-2 genome may serve to be incredibly important for clinicians and scientists who are using this data to produce therapeutics and vaccines against the virus,” said Dr. Townley-Tilson in a recent HPU news release.

The more people who join the team of researchers actively seeking a solution and an answer to this disease, the better. And High Point is doing its part to be a part of that great work.

The benefits of the research won’t stop once the semester ends however. Dr. Townley-Tilson plans to use this research in a National Science Foundation grant proposal. The proposal supports undergraduate STEM research, ensuring that HPU can continue equipping students with hands-on research experiences to use in the real world. And who knows? Maybe the next researcher to save thousands of lives might just come from our city.

Keep Discovering our High Points,

The HPD Team

Read High Point University’s full news story of Dr. Townley-Tilson’s research here. While HPD is proud to see our city’s contributions to the scientific fight against COVID-19, we are not a news source or medical resource. For real-time updates and information on how to protect yourself and loved ones from COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website.

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