American University of Beirut

AUB researchers receive 14 out of 29 CNRS-L grants for COVID-19 projects

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem​, Office of Communications​​

AUB principal investigators received 14 out of 29 grants from the CNRS-L flash call for COVID-19 management in Lebanon.

The flash call, initiated by the National Council for Scientific Research of Lebanon (CNRS-L), aimed to attract effective research projects and initiatives, that will give practical results to address current pandemic challenges, that can directly benefit the health sector in Lebanon.

According to the flash call announcement, the call for research proposals was “due to the increasing number of infections with COVID-19 in Lebanon and the failure of the health care system in Lebanon to meet the requirements of the critical phase at the hospitalization, therapeutic, and technical levels."

“The current exceptional circumstances require the utmost degree of cooperation and motivating available and competent Lebanese talents and expertise to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and provide practical and quick solutions that reduce suffering and reduce its negative effects on public health and society," said Dr. Mouin Hamze, secretary general of CNRS-L.

A total of 638 million Lebanese lira was allocated as financial support for the selected projects. A contribution of 100 million Lebanese lira was promised by AUB, as partial funding to some of the projects implemented by its researchers. Other universities benefiting from this program also expressed their commitment to provide indirect financial support to facilitate the work of their researchers in implementing their projects and making the results accessible to health and social organizations concerned with the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Selected Projects
The flash call attracted 143 projects from researchers belonging to 12 universities and hospitals as well as industrial institutions. CNRS-L also received projects from Lebanese specialists working in Europe and America. A team of experts chose 29 projects to receive funding support, including 14 projects from AUB and seven projects from Saint Joseph University.

One of the selected AUB projects is titled Early COVID-19 AT-home Check (Early CATCH). It is a new disposable paper-based radio frequency (RF) system that leverages applied electromagnetics, data analytics, and virology studies to allow individuals to test themselves at home.  “This system supplements the Lebanese healthcare industry with a technology driven solution. Early CATCH alleviates the pressure on specialized hospitals, identifies carriers, and stops the spread of the virus with a great anticipated accuracy and a promising commercialization potential," said Dr. Youssef Tawk, assistant professor at AUB. "Early CATCH not only transports the testing facility into the comfort of the patient's home but also provides a cheap instantaneous method for virus identification, which constitutes the first line of defense against the spread of the virus."​

Dr. Nada Melhem​, associate professor at AUB, and one of the CNRS-L grant awardees, commented saying, “the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Little is known about the kinetics and the correlates of protection among patients with COVID-19." She added, “our study aims to understand the immune responses in COVID-19 patients and underlying mechanisms. The results of this study will improve our understanding of the relationship between these responses and the severity of the disease and will impact the development of potential therapeutics and vaccines."

A list of accepted projects is available at:

“Healthcare workers (HCW) are in direct contact with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Our plan is to evaluate the degree of exposure of HCW to COVID-19 and measure their immunological response (IgG and IGM) against SARS-CoV-2," said Dr. Carine Sakr​, assistant professor at AUB whose project was also selected.

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