Rice Professor Pulls Together Massive COVID-19 Symposium, Maxes Out Zoom

Todd Treangen, a co-organizer of this symposium, is one of the founders of COV-IRT.

From Rice University News and Media Relations

By Patrick Kurp

Rice University computer scientist Todd Treangen has co-organized an international team of researchers investigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential treatment.

On April 17, COV-IRT (International Research Team) held its first virtual symposium. Registration exceeded expectations and filled the maximum of 1,000 slots permitted by Zoom, so it was streamed live on Facebook for those unable to register. It was also recorded and is available to be viewed.

The symposium, with 15 presenters each given 20 minutes to speak, included an interactive Q&A session and two panel discussions that focused on clinical and computational aspects of COVID-19.

The symposium will become available on the COV-IRT website, which is still being developed, with documentation to be published in scholarly journals.

“A lot of selfless work is going on,” Treangen said. “We had to turn away multiple excellent speakers just because we were limited for time. Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback during and after the symposium we are now strongly considering a follow-up event.”

COV-IRT draws members from many disciplines, including molecular biologists, software engineers, viral epidemiologists, computational biologists, statisticians, microbiologists, aerobiologists and clinicians.

Treangen’s work on COVID-19 started in January when the first datasets dedicated to the disease became available. “From the start we were most interested in jointly analyzing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and the host response of the patients who had contracted the disease,” he said. “Available public datasets that the COVID-19 scientific community have made available allow us to deeply dive into the viral and host responses during infection.”

Others from Rice who took part in the symposium included Ryan “Leo” Elworth, a postdoctoral researcher in Treangen’s lab who served as moderator; Kathryn Kundrod, a fifth-year doctoral student in bioengineering in Rebecca Richards-Kortum’s lab, who addressed diagnostics; and Sherry Gao, the T. N. Law Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who spoke on CRISPR-based detection methods.