The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory (Collaboratory) is supporting COVID-19 research projects that are intended to provide new data and information to state lawmakers and policy-makers to help guide the state’s response.In early May 2020 the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) appropriated $29 million to the NC Policy Collaboratory to support research on treatment, community testing and prevention of COVID-19 (as mandated by the NCGA in subdivision (23) of Section 3.3 of Session Law 2020-4; effective May 4, 2020). The Collaboratory was required to provide an update to the NCGA in September 2020 about the status of its research projects.
The Collaboratory worked closely with the leadership at universities across the UNC system and at UNC-Chapel Hill to develop the research plan and award funding for projects. Final funding decisions were made in a thorough and transparent manner and involved input and guidance from numerous experts. In the development of the Collaboratory’s research plan to support and fund COVID-19 research, the project review process took place across three main categories outlined below.
The UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) formed an ad hoc advisory committee of research deans from UNC-Chapel Hil which included the School of Medicine, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the Adams School of Dentistry to identify proposals and prioritize projects. This group originally was allocated ~$15 million based on the existing faculty expertise, infrastructure, and opportunity related to the fact that UNC-Chapel Hill currently has the largest coronavirus research portfolio (in terms of dollar amount) compared to any other academic institution in the world (and, as an organization, ranks third only behind the CDC and NIH).
The Collaboratory received more than 50 project proposals from units across UNC-CH that were in addition to the projects identified and prioritized by the OVCR process. The Collaboratory’s Advisory Board in conjunction with leadership of the UNC-CH College of Arts and Sciences assisted in reviewing projects across the UNC-CH campus that would provide timely and meaningful results in support of state and local government efforts to respond to public health and economic challenges. Funding for these projects totals approximately $6.7 million (including nominal funding for project management duties by the Collaboratory and the UNC-CH Institute for Convergent Science).
Collaboratory staff worked with the UNC Board of Governors Historically Minority-Serving Institutions (HMSI) Committee and representatives from UNC System universities to develop research projects and campus needs for COVID-19. As a result, approximately $1 million was allocated to each of the UNC Systems’ six HMSI campuses (i.e., ~$1 million each to ECSU, FSU, NCA&T, NCCU, UNCP, and WSSU; $6 million total) and approximately $600,000 was allocated to UNC-Asheville who will partner with the non-profit Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). Collaboratory staff also received and considered proposals from Appalachian State, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, and Western Carolina (both solicited and unsolicited) totaling just under $500,000.