As the massive changes COVID-19 was bringing to people’s everyday lives began to become more apparent, so did the urgent need for more respirators, face shields, and personal protective equipment (PPE). To help meet that need, Dr. David Walt (B.S. 1974) is co-leading the new Mass General Brigham Center for COVID Innovation in Boston where hundreds of engineers, researchers, scientists, and clinicians are racing to design and manufacture the essential equipment and diagnostic tests health care providers need to care for their patients.
The COVID Innovation Center has 60 full-time employees and more than 800 collaboration partners, and it has mobilized all of that brain power to rapidly design and test new methods for creating face shields and other PPE. The center is currently testing two new face shields it has designed, and it has also set its sights on creating new N95 respirator masks and has developed and validated methods to disinfect existing ones so they can be safely reused. They’re also helping health care workers care for their patients by developing new COVID-19 tests that are faster and more accurate.
“This is not a research center,” Walt says of the center’s vital work. “It’s an action center.”
Translating research and innovation into action is nothing new for Walt. He holds more than 80 patents and has published more than 350 scientific papers, including research that revolutionized the technology for DNA sequencing by making it more efficient and more affordable, thereby expanding the amount and types of research that could take advantage of it as a tool for research.
Walt and his wife, Michele May, are also long-time philanthropic partners to LSA and the Life Sciences Institute, providing vital need-based support and access for students pursuing STEM learning, programs, and research.
“Supporting students means supporting both the research and researchers that are so important at times like these,” Walt says. “We need scientific researchers and creative thinkers, and we need people who are willing to commit to a cause larger than themselves. That’s what I have on my team here at the innovation center and these are the students we’re supporting at LSA.”