Texas’ Fight Against Coronavirus

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As the global impact of COVID-19 became clear, leaders, researchers, faculty and staff across The University of Texas at Austin began working to understand the virus, slow its spread, and protect the health and safety of our campus and Central Texas communities.

Alumna’s philanthropic investment leads to coronavirus breakthrough

This February, UT researchers made a critical breakthrough toward developing a coronavirus vaccine when they created the first 3D atomic-scale map of the part of the virus — the spike protein — that infects human cells. Just three weeks after receiving the virus’ genome sequence, a team led by Professor Jason McLellan designed and produced samples of the spike protein and reconstructed its map. Now the team is using the molecule to isolate COVID-19 antibodies, which could be used to treat a coronavirus infection soon after exposure.
three men in lab coats, Jason McLellan Team
Professor Jason McLellan’s team made the breakthrough that gets us closer to a vaccine.

The family of Betsy Sauer, BBA ’66, invested her estate gift to bring this game-changing technology to UT.

Critical to the success of the UT team was the cryogenic electron microscopy technology in UT’s new Sauer Laboratory for Structural Biology, which was established by an estate gift from Elizabeth “Betsy” Sauer, BBA ’66. “We ended up being the first ones in part due to the infrastructure at the Sauer Lab,” McLellan says. “It highlights the importance of funding basic research facilities.”

Love, Tito’s supports COVID-19 researchers across campus

UT’s leading researchers are making headlines every day. Some are building on years of work on infectious disease, while others have quickly pivoted to provide innovative solutions for the fight against coronavirus.

Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers and her team specialize in predicting the spread of infectious diseases. They were some of the first to show how quickly COVID-19 can spread, including by people without symptoms. Now the team is using their models to design control strategies for partners like the CDC, as well as state and local agencies.

Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka, founded by Bert “Tito” Beveridge, B.S. ’84, is supporting Professor Meyers’ work through Love, Tito’s, the brand’s philanthropic arm. To start, Love, Tito’s is providing a multi-million-dollar grant to help fund the development of an innovative decision tool that simulates the spread of a viral infection and can help with nowcasting, forecasting, prevention and control for future pandemics — all aimed at reducing the burden on the health care system and improving the well-being of the population.

Lauren Meyers headshot

Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers is providing COVID-19 guidance to local, state and national decision-makers.

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Love, Tito’s is supporting several key UT efforts to address the pandemic, from global disease modeling to hand sanitizer for front-line clinicians at UT Health Austin.
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A UT team is getting innovative low-cost ventilators into the hands of people who need them.
Lauren Meyers headshot

Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers is providing COVID-19 guidance to local, state and national decision-makers.

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Love, Tito’s is supporting several key UT efforts to address the pandemic, from global disease modeling to hand sanitizer for front-line clinicians at UT Health Austin.

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A UT team is getting innovative low-cost ventilators into the hands of people who need them.

See up-to-the-minute news on UT’s work on the COVID-19 outbreak at coronavirus.utexas.edu.

Love, Tito’s is also funding the rapid final development and production of new, low-cost ventilators that UT researchers have developed for immediate use in Central Texas. The cross-disciplinary team has developed a new type of ventilator that is safe, reliable and deployable anywhere, thanks to its construction from affordable, widely available materials like a windshield wiper motor from a Toyota Camry.

The Austin Bridge Breathing Unit ventilator can be produced at one tenth the cost of a traditional ventilator and, in partnership with Dell Medical School’s Texas Health Catalyst, the team is publishing the design as open source so anyone can build the device where it’s needed.

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Longhorn Nation supports UT students in crisis

This spring, UT made dramatic changes to protect the health and safety of our students. That disruption caused unexpected hardships for some Longhorns, but more than 3,900 alumni and friends stepped up to support UT students in need. 

Changing the world

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