Weekly COVID-19 Update: OMB Memorandum, Funding Opportunities and More
07/15/2020, 02:20:01 PM
From the Vice President for Research at the University of Houston. View this message in browser.
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Dear Research Faculty,​​

Last Friday, Governor Abbott extended the Disaster Declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. He urged Texans to ‘continue to do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home if possible.’ Adhering to the guidelines will continue to be important if we want to bring the number of daily infections down. I will mention some of the information the University is providing to assist you in handling COVID-19 in your research group. I will also address the June 18 OMB memorandum again, which we discussed in the VPR Virtual Office Hours last Friday. The more vigilant we (the UH research community) are, the more likely that we will be allowed to continue running our research projects.

COVID-19 Information

Please continue to check the University COVID-19 Information website with guidelines on general prevention, potential exposure, positive diagnosis and self-quarantine. The University follows CDC guidelines and as those guidelines change, the University website will be updated. The site has links to forms that all students and employees, regardless of whether they have been on campus, must complete when they exhibit symptoms, had a potential exposure to COVID-19 or returned from international travel. If you are advised to self-quarantine/isolate, you need to submit the Completion of Self-Quarantine/Isolation form to request to return to campus. The COVID-19 Diagnosis/Symptoms Protocols page provides detailed information for employees and supervisors. Information for students was added last week to this page.

Funding Opportunities

The NIH issued PAR-20-237: Community Interventions to Address the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic among Health Disparity and Vulnerable Populations (R01- Clinical Trial Optional). This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages applications to implement and evaluate community interventions testing (1) the impacts of mitigation strategies to prevent COVID-19 transmission in NIH-designated health disparity populations and other vulnerable groups; and (2) already implemented, new or adapted interventions to address the adverse psychosocial, behavioral and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic on the health of these groups. Applications are due on August 28 or December 1.

The NIH issued PAR-20-243: Digital Healthcare Interventions to Address the Secondary Health Effects Related to Social, Behavioral, and Economic Impact of COVID-19. The purpose of this funding opportunity is to focus on the role and impact of digital health interventions [e.g., mobile health (mhealth), telemedicine and telehealth, health information technology (IT), and wearable devices] to address access, reach, delivery, effectiveness, scalability and sustainability of health assessments and interventions for secondary effects (e.g., behavioral health or self-management of chronic conditions) that are utilized during and following the pandemic, particularly in populations who experience health disparities and vulnerable populations. Applications are due on August 20, December 2 or March 2, 2021.

Genentech and The Genentech Foundation are accepting letters of interest from prospective partners working to build a more diverse and inclusive future of healthcare and science, from kindergarten to career, to combat systemic racism that has prevented communities of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color from accessing education and career pathways in science and medicine. Their goal is to increase racial and ethnic diversity of the science and medical community to ensure culturally competent, empathetic, and high-quality care for all. The deadline for the LOI is August 10.

June 18 OMB Memorandum

I have previously addressed the OMB M 20-26 Memorandum. It is important that PIs who paused some or all of their federally funded research take note of this memorandum. The current flexibility to charge salaries of employees to federal grants whose activities are partially or fully paused due to COVID-19 will end on September 30. At that point, either all research activities need to be fully back, or the PI needs to find alternative funding for those whose activities continue to be paused and cannot be reassigned to other work. In the meantime, the Federal Government has started to ask PIs to find other sources of funding for paused employees between now and September 30, and asked institutions to reduce their operational budgets. Efforts to shift funding to other sources must be documented. Our office will be contacting some of you to assess the magnitude of the impact this memorandum has on research expenditures.

FY21 Federal Science Agency Appropriations

The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee last Monday approved a roughly $5.5 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health in fiscal 2021, with budget increases for every institute and center. The proposed institute budgets include support from a $5 billion in one-time ‘emergency’ funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The spending bills for other science agencies propose modest adjustments to current spending levels and do not include emergency add-ons. The Senate has not yet advanced its counterpart legislation.

VPR Virtual Office Hours

The next VPR Virtual Office Hours will be on Friday, August 7, at 11:30 a.m. (please note the time). You will be able to access the event through the Research & Innovation Teams site. I hope that you will join us next month.

Best regards,

Amr Elnashai, FREng  
Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer

Amr Elnashai | VP for Research and Technology Transfer | elnashai@uh.edu | 713-743-4736

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