Covid-19 research and innovation at the University of Surrey

Research and innovation at the University of Surrey is making a difference in the fight against Covid-19. 

The University of Surrey is working tirelessly to address the Covid-19 pandemic in a wide range of innovative projects. Driving research and innovation to help tackle the global crisis, our experts are working together and with industry from across society to understand Covid-19 and its impact on our lives. 

Our Covid-19 related research projects

The University of Surrey has 100+ Covid-19 related research projects underway or completed. We've brought together some of the highlights here in our new infographic. 

Microbiologists work to understand basic SARS CoV 2 biology with a view to identifying therapeutic targets

Professor Nicolas Locker is studying how viral proteins affect the stress response pathways in the infected host to identify possible targets for intervention against SARS-CoV-2. This can further help better understand how the virus adapted from bat to human. Professor Locker has also contributed to efforts led at the Vet School by Dr Dan Horton and Professor Roberto La Ragione, in developing novel diagnostic tests and supports the NHS testing by providing home-brewed detection reagents. 

Leading academic investigates how important vitamin D is to Covid-19

Professor Susan Lanham-New investigates how important vitamin D is to Covid-19. She has led on an international Consensus Paper specifically on Vitamin D and SARS-CoV-2 Virus/COVID-19 Disease, just published in the British Medical Journal.  She provides advice on Vitamin D to H.M Government including the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence. Together with Dr Andrea Darling, the Surrey UK Biobank Team is analysing the effects of ethnicity, body composition, smoking and vitamin D on Covid-19 cases and negative controls. 

Doctoral researcher supports national Covid-19 reporting

Postgraduate researcher Steve Falconer from the Department of Mathematics is helping the Royal College of GPs’ Research and Surveillance Centre with their weekly communications and respiratory disease reporting during the Covid-19 pandemic. Steve has had to temporarily move to part-time research for his PhD so that he can spend 2 days a week supporting this work. Steve is supervised by Dr Santitissadeekorn Naratip and Dr David Lloyd.

New guidance to support psychological needs of nursing staff during Covid-19 pandemic

Professor Jill Maben (pictured) and Dr Cath Taylor with Professor Jackie Bridges from the University of Southampton identify the stressors and challenges nurses face during the Covid-19 pandemic and have developed guidance offering strategies for nursing team members across health and social care settings to support their psychological wellbeing. The importance of peer and team support is highlighted in the guidance and outlines what managers, organisations and leaders can do to support nurses at this most critical of time. 

Investigating what predicts compliance with rules related to Covid-19 lockdown

Led by Dr Sonia Ingoglia at the University of Palermo and other colleagues in Italy, Spain, France, and Norway, Dr Harriet Tenenbaum is involved in a study to look at what predicts compliance with rules related to lockdown in Italy, Spain, and France. Across over 2,000 participants, social competence and caring in one’s self-schema predict civic engagement and respect for following health-related governmental rules during the Covid-19 pandemic, which, in turn, were associated with trust in public institutions. 

Covid-19 data represented sonically and musically in ‘Covid-19 Listening Project’

Dr Enzo De Sena and Dr Milton Mermikides (pictured) from the Department of Music and Media have set up the Covid-19 Listening Project, dedicated to the sonic and musical representation of Covid-19 data. A choral piece and a genomic-spatial realisation have already been produced using the database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It is hoped this will help experts learn more about the virus by identifying anomalies and other clues.  

Investigating functional change of antibodies in Covid-19

Professor Deborah Dunn-Walters and Dr Alexander Stewart are studying blood samples from Frimley Park Hospital to characterise the dynamics of class switching in B cells during Covid-19 infection. This is where disease-specific antibodies change their function, e.g. from IgM to IgG or IgA.  This will provide information to inform later studies assessing vaccine responses and may help to identify biomarkers of disease severity.  Together with Dr Natalie Riddell and Dr Fernando Martinez Estrada all samples undergo immunophenotyping.

Developing a point-of-care Covid-19 test

Dr Anil Fernando (pictured) from CVSSP is working with Professor Roberto La Ragione, Dr Dan Horton and colleagues from the School of Veterinary Medicine and scientists from Lancaster University and Brunel University London to develop an inexpensive, rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test that can inform people if they have Covid-19 in 30 minutes. A mobile-based app for the device can control it, track users’ movements and contact anyone who has had a close interaction with a diagnosed person.

Doctoral researcher contributes to national taskforce on mental health

Emma Wadey has temporarily interrupted her PhD write-up to fulfil a role as Clinical Lead for the National Mental health and Learning Disability & Autism COVID-19 response cell, providing clinical advice and oversight. Emma is Head of Mental Health Nursing in NHS England and NHS Improvement and has been supervised by Professor Sara Faithfull and Dr Anne Arber.

Investigating the contribution of lockdown measures during the Covid-19 outbreak

Professor Inga Prokopenko (pictured), Mr Kostiantyn Rudomotkin, Dr Marika Kaakinen and Dr Zhanna Balkhiiarova are investigating the contribution of lockdown measures, including social distancing for prolonged period of time during the Covid-19 outbreak. POSEIDON-PHACT study implements an online questionnaire about individual physical activity and wellbeing . This international multi-centre study already collected data from 625 respondents and will enable the development of preventive measures to maintain individual psycho-physical health. 

Examining the wellbeing of young people during the Covid-19 lockdown

Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe (pictured) and Dr Birgitta Gatersleben are working with a local sixth form college to examine the wellbeing of young people during lockdown and their (use of) their living environment. Preliminary findings of the survey support the predicted importance of access to private spaces and natural environments for hedonic (mood) and eudaimonic (feeling connected to others, having a sense of purpose) wellbeing under lockdown.  

Studying risk perceptions associated with Covid-19 in different European and South American countries

Dr Birgitta Gatersleben is working with Dr Fátima Bernardo from the Universidade de Évora in Portugal to study risk perceptions associated with Covid-19 in different European (UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany) and South American countries (Brazil, Chile). The study examines whether risk perceptions differ between countries, change over time (due to Government responses) and are related to place attachment. Preliminary findings point to some expected differences, however, in general this global pandemic appears to affect perceptions across the world in similar ways.  

Surrey academic helps develop privacy focused Covid-19 tracing app

Professor Glenn Parry proposed a privacy-preserving tracing app, using technology from his previous research, in the Hack-From-Home COVID19 hackathon. 822 participants from 62 countries joined and the team he helped form won the event with their HealthTraffic app. The collaborators, now led by Case Western University, were granted £7,000 and have created the ShareTrace Covid-19 tracing and health monitoring app, which they hope to deploy in the US. 

Doctoral researcher pauses PhD to return to clinical practice

Duncan Hamilton, a newly-registered nurse, has continued working in clinical practice on a local respiratory ward. Duncan has co-authored an article in Nursing Standard about ethical practice during the pandemic and acknowledged in an editorial on staff wellbeing in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. Duncan is supervised by Professor Jill Maben and Dr Cath Taylor in the School of Health Sciences.

Global study launched to examine impact of Covid-19 on health and wellbeing

Dr YingFei Héliot, in collaboration with researchers at LSE and Nottingham Trent University, has launched a global study to examine the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and wellbeing. It aims to uncover social implications such as resilience, health attitudes and behaviour, political standing, and responsiveness as citizens. The study will provide evidence-based guidance for policy makers in dealing with population-based emergencies and foster growth after experiencing crisis and traumatic events. 

Team helps NHS predict levels of care required by patients by looking for tractable biomarkers of disease severity

Dr Mel Bailey and colleagues in Chemistry are collaborating with the Immunology Section to collect blood and sebum samples from Covid-19 patients at Frimley Park Hospital.  In conjunction with the UK Mass Spectrometry Coalition, they will undertake metabolomics, lipidomics and proteomics.  They are looking for tractable biomarkers of disease severity in order to help the NHS predict the levels of care required by patients at early stages of disease.  The study is supported by volunteers from Surrey’s Postgraduate research community who received funding from EPSRC. 

Link identified between dietary selenium and outcome of Covid-19 disease

Professor Margaret Rayman has led an international team of researchers in identifying a link between the Covid-19 cure rate and selenium status. Selenium is an essential trace mineral known to affect the severity of a number of viral diseases in animals and humans; its intake varies markedly across China. The Covid-19 cure rate in different Chinese cities was found to be significantly associated with selenium status, measured by the amount of selenium in people’s hair in those cities. 

Smart Separations steals show with its Covid-19 solution at European Innovation Council’s ePitching

Smart Separations, a microfiltration technology company, based at the Surrey Research Park, is finalising testing on its anti-viral air transmission units which can be used to remove coronavirus and other viruses and bacteria from the air. Smart Separations has just been crowned winner of an e-Pitching session to the European Innovation Council for its nano technology-based smart coating, which destroys viruses, bacteria and mold. It can be used on air and surfaces, two of the main ways that Coronvirus spreads. 

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Eurofins County Pathology now set to deliver 5,000 Covid-19 antibody tests a day

Eurofins County Pathology, a high-quality diagnostic service provider, has been involved in the provision of the antibody testing kits for Covid-19 from the outset and has now expanded its laboratory space on Surrey Research Park to increase its provision of tests. To help meet the urgent need for increased testing, Eurofins County Pathology has benefited from being located on Surrey Research Park, with the team responding quickly to provide suitable extra laboratory space in Surrey Technology Centre. 

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Ergomed announces provision of clinical research services for Covid-19

Located on Surrey Research Park, Ergomed plc, provides specialised services to the pharmaceutical industry. It is currently involved in a clinical research study of a monoclonal antibody for Covid-19 patients who have developed serious respiratory complications.   

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Igenomix UK repurpose its laboratory to deliver Covid-19 PCR tests

Located on Surrey Research Park, Igenomix UK, a medical laboratory offering genetic tests for fertility treatment, has diverted its resources to carry out Covid-19 PCR tests for both its private and NHS patients as well as their network of clinicians. 

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Using scientific modelling to understand Covid-19

Dr Pete Barbrook-Johnson is part of a team led by Durham University providing Covid-19 analysis and modelling to NHS trusts in the north-east of England. This work is helping decision-makers understand the uncertainty around forecasts models are providing them and allowing them to combine the outputs of many models rather than rely on a few. Pete is also working with colleagues in the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) to explore the impacts of Covid-19 on rural areas.

Analysing respiratory data of patients with Covid-19

Professor Philip Aston will be working with Iceni Labs, Royal Papworth Hospital and KCL analysing respiratory data of patients with Covid-19. Iceni Labs have developed a non-contact device for monitoring chest motion which the Royal Papworth Hospital will be using to collect data from Covid patients. This data will be analysed using the Symmetric Projection Attractor Reconstruction method at Surrey in order to determine the characteristic breathing patterns associated with progression through the disease and in response to treatment. 

Studying how different types of face masks can protect from the infection of SARS-CoV-2 in public built spaces

In response to the current global public health crisis, Professor Prashant Kumar plays an active role in the clean air community. Currently, he is participating in two Royal Society Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) volunteer initiatives and is part of an international effort making a case for the recognition of airborne transmission. Among others, his team is studying the impact of lockdown on air quality in different cities, including ODA countries, and how different types of face masks can offer protection from the infection of SARS-CoV-2 in public built spaces. 

Reviewing practices in world cities for dealing with Covid-19 

Professor Lampros Stergioulas and colleagues from Surrey Business School are reviewing practices in cities around the world in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Reviewed issues include social isolation and other wellbeing and psychological effects, supply chains and public information actions. This research aims to produce policy-making recommendations to support evidence-based policy making and informed decision support in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. 

Studying the role of blood coagulation activation and development of thrombi that occurs in lungs of Covid-19 patients

Professor John McVey is working with collaborators at the Royal Free London NHS Trust to understand the role of blood coagulation activation and the development of thrombi that occurs in the lungs of patients with Covid-19. They are profiling a range of markers of inflammation, lung and blood vessel damage as well as blood coagulation in the plasma of these patients. It is hoped this will further our understanding of this life-threatening complication of this devastating infection and lead to more effective treatment. 

Examining the impact of new technology used in video court hearings

Professor Nigel Fielding (pictured), Professor Sabine Braun and colleagues from the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Translation Studies have published an evaluation of Video Enabled Justice offering insights for courts, court users and others at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a rapid increase in the use of courtroom technology. The evaluation was commissioned by the Home Office in partnership with the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner.

Investigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and wellbeing in families of children with rare genetic and neurodevelopmental disorders

Professor Emily Farran (pictured) and Dr Jo Moss are part of the CoIN Study team investigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and wellbeing in families of children with rare genetic and neurodevelopmental disorders. It is tracking changes in wellbeing during and after the pandemic to understand the challenges facing these families and their impact. The results will be used to identify and provide better support for these families. The project has now been funded by the Bailey Thomas Charitable Fund

Impact of Covid-19 mobility restriction in China on people’s travel intention – Evidence from Weibo data

Dr Anyu Liu (pictured) and Dr Yoo Ri Kim with collaborators in China are working on a project to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 mobility restriction on people’s travel intention. The travel intention is measured by the daily sentiment score of 31 provinces/municipalities in China and the casual relationship is examined by the spatial DID approach. The findings of the ongoing study will be updated in due course. 

Retail expert investigates measures providers undertake to signal safety to consumers

Professor Sabine Benoit studies which measures retailers and service providers undertake to signal safety to their consumers. For this she and her co-author have scanned over 1000 managerial articles and identified 50 distinct measures. They relate to the access to the service environment (e.g. obligation to wear masks or one-in-one-out policies), to the physical environment and tangibles (e.g. one-way systems or virus repellent fabrics) and the staff or other customers (e.g. protective shields or removal of non-essential staff). Signalling theory is used to evaluate the effectiveness of these instruments. 

Impact of Covid-19 on Asia Pacific visitor forecasts 2020-2024

Professor Gang Li (pictured) and Dr Anyu Liu, in collaboration with Professor Haiyan Song’s team at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, produced Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2020-2024 for the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The report has paid particular attention to the impact of Covid-19 on the visitor demand and the market recovery in 39 destinations of the region. Both Professor Li and Dr Liu were invited as panellists to PATA’s webinar on this topic on 14 May. 

Disproportionate impacts on Covid-19 on pregnancy and maternity

Dr Ranjana Das is studying how Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting pregnancy and maternity by looking at women’s experiences of perinatal mental health difficulties, giving birth and being postnatal amidst the pandemic. She is paying particular attention to the rapid pivot towards digital delivery, investigating both the promises and potentials as well as the inequalities, uncertainties and pitfalls of this digital pivot. Her early findings were delivered to the Institute of Health Visiting in May 2020. A report in forthcoming in early summer 2020.

Watch Dr Das's presentation to the Institute of Health Visiting

Consumer purchasing intention in restaurants and hotels post-Covid-19 lockdown

Dr Yoo Ri Kim and Dr Anyu Liu are working on an experimental study regarding understanding consumers’ purchasing intention in restaurants and hotels after the Covid-19 lockdown measures are lifted. This study aims to provide both theoretical and practical implications for the hospitality industry after the lockdown measures have been lifted by informing consumer behavioural intention on social distancing measures and promotion offers.

Examining the wellbeing of gig workers during Covid-19

Dr Yanning Li (pictured) and Dr Tracy Xu are investigating the wellbeing of gig economy workers during lockdown. It aims to uncover how the Covid-19 pandemic influences the wellbeing of workers in the gig economy in the UK. This project will be beneficial for local authorities and public health-care managers to address the needs of low-income and relatively insecure group.

Examining the resilience of hospitality companies during the Covid-19 pandemic

Dr Tracy Xu (pictured) is working with Mark Ashton and Dr Yanning Li to study the resilience capacity and real-time adaptive strategies hospitality organisations need to have in order to sustain in the Covid-19 pandemic. This project aims to provide insights into how business strategies for hospitality organizations may be better formulated to build sustainable competitive advantage.

 

Fold for Covid supported by Surrey research

Rosetta@home is a long-standing citizen science project to support protein structure research. Now, Rosetta@home has teamed up with Balena, a company that was set up to exploit the Department of Computer Science digital economy research led by Professor Paul Krause, to create Fold for Covid in which spare computers from around the world, from Raspberry Pi to old laptops and desktops can be used to help researchers look for proteins that bind to the infamous ‘spike’ protein on Covid-19.

Telephone interventions could be used to reduce symptoms of cancer

Telephone interventions have potential to successfully treat symptoms of cancer such as fatigue, depression and anxiety, new research in the Cochrane Library reports. Arguably, this could help patients receive the care they need during the current Covid-19 pandemic when face-to-face access to medical professionals is limited. The research, led by Professor Emma Ream from the School of Health Sciences, addressed the many and varied symptoms experienced by people with cancer that can affect wellbeing and mar quality of life.

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Connecting with nature during times of crisis: Understanding alternative use of spaces of leisure and recreation during lockdown

Professor Caroline Scarles and Dr Tracy Xu are working in collaboration with Dr Birgitta Gatersleben and Dr Kayleigh Wyles from the School of Psychology to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on people’s use of local, everyday spaces of leisure and recreation. The research seeks to understand how behaviour during lockdown is significantly different to pre-lockdown behaviours and how experiences during lockdown may influence changes in behaviour going forward. This is an ongoing survey and results will be shared in due course.

Virtual experiences of travel during lockdown

Professor Caroline Scarles, Drs. Tracy Xu and Daisy Liu and Ms Ayeisha Green are collaborating to investigate how experiences of virtual travel effect wellbeing during lockdown and how these experiences may affect travel planning and decision making going forward as the tourism industry moves into a post-COVID-19 era. This is an ongoing survey and the results will be shared in due course.

Changes in air passenger demand as a result of the Covid-19 crisis

Using data on 5,000 million air passenger searches on Skyscanner, we found that desire to fly in 2020 drop by 50% in Asia and 30% in Europe and the Americas, and intention to fly dropped by a further 20%, while most source markets remain optimistic about air travel during the last quarter of 2020. Professor Xavier Font (pictured) and Dr Inma Gallego developed a methodology to detect the reactivation of tourist markets to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, with a traffic light dashboard that shows how destination managers can use air travel Big Data. 

The impact of the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown on dog owners' wellbeing

Postgraduate researcher Lori Hoy in the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management is investigating the lockdown’s impact on dog owners’ feelings, thoughts, behaviours, and wellbeing. The project is receiving input from various stakeholders including MP Luke Pollard, Shadow Secretary for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. This project aims to generate information for government, businesses, and charities in future crises. Lori is supervised by Dr Brigitte Stangl and Prof Nigel Morgan.

Sustainable mobility and Autonomous Vehicles after Covid-19

SHTM/SWELL have been administering in the UK a user survey focusing on travel preferences and Autonomous Vehicles. This is an activity of WISE-ACT, which is an international network of experts chaired by Dr Nikolas Thomopoulos. Since this user survey is co-ordinated with the Eurobarometer and administered in several countries across Europe, SHTM/SWELL researchers will collaborate with WISE-ACT to control user responses received before and after the COVID-19 lock-down across participating countries. Findings will be published in this upcoming Special Issue

Pandemics, tourism and global change: a rapid assessment of Covid-19

Professor Daniel Scott co-authored the assessment of Covid-19 on the tourism industry that is currently the most read journal article in the world in this topic. It reviews how the current ban on travelling is affecting the tourism industry and what the consequences for the sector may be. 

Surrey Living Lab funded Doctoral Researcher investigates the impact of Covid-19 on travel behaviours and perceptions towards remote working

Nicola Andreij Rieg (pictured) is working with Dr Chris Jones and Dr Nikolas Thomopoulos to examine the impact of Covid-19 on habits, attitudes, and norms of University staff regarding travel to work and remote working. The study aims to uncover remote working experiences during lockdown and potential changes in commuting in the short-term and long-term future, and in this way inform new working guidelines towards providing better support for remote working and travel to work. 

Creating virtual encounters with art in times of crisis

Professors Caroline Scarles,  Gang Li, Drs Jason Chen and Husna Zainal Abidin are evaluating the impacts of virtual engagement with and experience of art during times of crisis. The objectives of this research project are as follows: firstly, to critique the shifts in visitor behaviour patterns throughout this time of crisis as they move from predominantly physical, on-site encounters with art, to engaging with art and curated tours through platforms such as Smartify; secondly, to evaluate the future opportunities for arts and heritage organisations in reframing existing business models to adopt greater virtual, greener and technology-led solutions for engaging with art galleries and associated exhibitions. This project is funded by the SME Innovation Voucher Scheme, in collaboration with Smartify

The impact of positive psychology interventions on well-being during the Covid-19 lockdown

Amelia Dennis (pictured) and Professor Jane Ogden from the School of Psychology are assessing predictors of well-being alongside the effectiveness of positive psychology interventions at increasing well-being under lockdown. In particular, they are exploring whether focusing on the past (through nostalgia), or the present (through gratitude) or the future (through best possible self) is most effective at improving well-being at this time. 

Innovative pricing: Pay-as-you-wish as a means to attract customers to museums post-Covid-19

All around the globe tourism organisations are looking for ways to build trust to get customers back to travel, to visit sights, and to generally engage in tourism related activities. Dr Brigitte Stangl and Dr Margit Kastner (WU Vienna) are examining the implementation of innovative pricing strategies namely Pay-As-You-Wish (PAYW) for example for museums. PAYW brings benefits for suppliers and consumers. Organisations attract consumers, who can pay the price they can afford (considering the impact the lockdown had on the income of many people). Generated revenue allows organisations to cover costs and to continue operating the business in the usual quality, diversity, and excellence. 

UK-wide research will look at impact of Covid-19 on early cancer diagnosis

Dr Katriina Whitaker is working with the University of Cardiff, King’s College London and Cancer Research UK to understand the impact of Covid-19 on cancer attitudes and behaviours. The message to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” and the suspension of cancer screening programmes sent a strong message that “cancer can wait”. This UKRI funded project will help develop clear public health messages to encourage early detection and prevention. 

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