After an urgent request by the Alfaisal University President, faculty were mobilized to contribute through their research capabilities to ease the COVID-19 pandemic. This effort is being coordinated by the VP of the Office of Research & Graduate Studies and the Deans of the Colleges of Medicine, Science, Pharmacy, Engineering and Business. The focus is to collaborate with and strongly support the Kingdom's healthcare stakeholders to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Rapid virus detection has enormous implications in healthcare, agriculture and biodefense. At Alfaisal University in Riyadh, our research teams have united with King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center and others to develop several rapid and efficient virus detection systems. The University holds international patents on biosensors for virus detection. The strategic focus is on reducing the threat posed by emerging infectious diseases through prediction, pandemic detection, and vaccine development. A large external grant was also recently awarded to Alfaisal faculty on development of rapid and efficient diagnostic platforms for the detection of emerging viruses in KSA.

A total of 19 internal COVID-19 grants were awarded to faculty in Medicine, Business, Engineering, Pharmacy and Science:

Dr Ahmad Aljada

Professor of Biochemistry
College of Medicine

Evaluation of Eukaryote-Made Thermostable DNA Polymerase to Expedite Inhouse and Point of Care COVID-19 RT-PCR Test kits Manufacturing

The early identification and isolation of infected individuals is important for the effective control of COVID 19. The main objectives of the study are to develop an eukaryote-made thermostable DNA (Taq) polymerase to achieve the production of Taq polymerase free from bacterial DNA contamination which would result in lower false positive and to adopt and validate an inhouse SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR assay as a rapid (30 min) and a portable diagnostic test.

Dr Ahmed Yaqinuddin

Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
College of Medicine

SARS-COV-2 infection and inflammasome NLRP3 activation: A pathway for Acute Lung Injury

This study is aimed to decipher cellular mechanism which leads to Acute Lung Injury in COVID-19 infection. It will also suggest therapeutic strategies which can prevent this injury.

Dr Ashley L. Carreras

Assistant Professor of Operations & Project Management, College of Business

Improving Critical Health Capabilities Against Coronaviruses

At this critical stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, with cases rising, healthcare managers and policy makers face urgent a public health problems in the context of competing health, social and economic priorities. It is imperative that KSA builds its health capabilities in a cost-efficient manner so that it is best situated to deal with this and similar coronavirus outbreaks like MERS-COV. This research project offers an assessment of the viability of advanced system for assessing and building the optimal portfolio of health capabilities against coronaviruses threats, using cutting edge decision sciences.

Baraa Alghalyini, MD, CCFP, MHSc, FCFPC

Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Chair, Family and Community Medicine

The Impact of Preventive Measures to Combat COVID19 Pandemic on the Saudi Society: Solidarity, Humility & Connectivity

The magnitude of COVID 19 pandemic on healthcare system, economy, education, and social networking is dreadful the least to say. The world now is suffering only from the current sequel of the pandemic. Whereas, future waves with even more devastating consequences are expected. Mental illnesses, psychic trauma and burnout are only few examples. Saudi Arabia has been applauded for initiating drastic and timely precautionary measures to halt the spread of the virus. This study will evaluate the perception and overall impact of the precautionary measures applied against the spread of COVID 19 Pandemic on the Saudi population which will eventually improve future planning, preparedness, and disaster management.

Cynthia Mosher

Simulation Educator Department of Clinical Skills

Donning and Doffing of PPE: Effectiveness of Online Simulation Instruction to Decrease COVID-19 Transmission and Contraction

Among the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic are the most important people serving the frontlines – our physicians, nurses, trainees, and other healthcare workers who face the disease every day. COVID-19 has exposed serious gaps in knowledge and practice of proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Recent international studies found 90% of staff do not use proper doffing sequence or technique, 65% lack training in the use and disposal of PPE, and infection rates of healthcare workers as high as 20%. Simulation training has been shown to be effective in enhancing provider safety and promoting buy-in to the meticulous practice of proper technique in PPE use. Our study will investigate the effectiveness of online simulation instruction in proper donning and doffing of PPE of healthcare workers and trainees, taking the proven value of simulation education into the realm of online learning to provide an effective alternative for training large numbers of individuals in implementing best practices.

George Kulik (PI)

Associate Professor or Cancer Biology

Rapid point of care tests for SARS-CoV-2

To develop rapid end-of-care tests that can identify people infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus within short time period, we propose to compare commercially available RT-QPCR tests, the RT-QPCR tests developed by Dr. Ornelles (a collaborator from Wake Forest School of Medicine) and recently described Reverse Transcription Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (RTLAMP) Assays Targeting SARS-CoV-2. It is anticipated that results of the proposed research will provide independent evaluation of commercially available SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.

Dr. Hana Abdalla

Assistant Professor of Medical Microbiology

Potential Synergistic Role of Thioflavin and Silver Graphene Nanocomposite in Treating COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 has unfortunately reached a dangerous phase (pandemic), exceeding both severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS). In this proposal, we want to develop a new treatment for SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) using a synergistic approach. This approach is based on a molecule extracted from black tea that has recently proven to have a role in inhibiting the RNA dependent RNA polymerase (rdrp) of (COVID-19) and silver graphene nanoparticle, which has proven to have antiviral effect in addition to its more efficacious mode of delivery. This can be done by using the black tea extract as a reducing agent in the production of silver graphene oxide. The toxicity of the composite will be tested in the cell line model expressed with viral proteins using their corresponding viral plasmids.

Nidal Nasser, Ph.D.

Professor of Software Engineering

Detecting Infected Persons with COVID-19 Disease from Tweets Using Machine Learning Approach

With the increased usage social media platforms and web blog services, the challenge of extracting public sentiment and disseminating personal health information has become more common than ever in the last decade. In this research proposal we aim on developing a novel machine learning model for COVID-19 disease detection based on social media posts, tweets. The model extracts the presence of a COVID-19 disease based on tweets and decides whether it is a general discussion about the disease, and no one is actually infected, or people are actually infected with that disease.

Dr. Noara Alhusseini

Clinical Dietitian, MAS, DrPH
Senior Lecturer, Healthcare Policy, College of Medicine

COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Eating Habits of Riyadh Residents

A novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. COVID-19 was later declared by the WHO as a pandemic in March 2020. As of April 29, 2020, the total number of reported coronavirus cases globally was 3,136,232 with 217,799 deaths and the total cases in Saudi Arabia reached 20,077 with 152 reported deaths. The Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) put a lot of effort to control the spread of coronavirus. This sudden change in the country has led to fear and anxiety. People started to panic and overstock on food supplies. Having a balanced and healthy diet routine can help boost the immune system of the human body, which is essential in fighting viruses. Saudi Arabia has experienced dietary transitions in the last decades as the country has grown economically and became more influenced by the western culture. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the eating habits of adults residing in Riyadh. A cross-sectional study will be used. The target population will be adults residing in Riyadh city. Participants will

Dr. Noura Alfayez

Assistant professor Management department

Social media role during COVID-19: The good, the bad, and the ugly

This study aims to understand how social media functions during the period of COVID 19 crises. The outcome of this research will reveal information about how to evaluate social media contribution during COVID-19 disease. This study will provide insights into how to manage social media during a time of crisis to promote advantages and mitigate the drawbacks of social media usage during crises.

Dr Muhammad Raihan Sajid

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology

Expression of NKG2A on C8+ cell and NK cell counts in COVID-19 patients and its correlation with disease severity Abstract

Cytotoxic T-Cells (CTLs) and Natural Killer (NK) cells are required to generate an effective immune response against viruses. Some studies have demonstrated a low lymphocyte count in patients with severe Covid-19 infection. The aim of this study is to confirm the Absolute lymphocyte count, CD 8 and NK cell count and expression of NKG2A expression on CD 8 cells and correlate these findings with the severity of the Covid-19 infection.

Rashid Mehmood

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology

Sequencing local SARS-CoV-2 isolates and developing multiplexing assay for diagnosis and genotyping.

Covid-19 has severely affected the entire world both in terms of morbidity and mortality rates. One of the striking attributes of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for COVID-19, is its high mutation rate. We aim to sequence SARS-CoV-2 so as to untangle its etiology and identify local strains. This might eventually lead to rapid diagnosis based on local virus strains.

Dr. Souraya Goumri-Said

Associate professor of Physics

Modeling and simulation of COVID-19 virus using computational tools and artificial intelligence

Scientists over the world are racing against time to know the secrets of severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 that is causing a pandemic disease COVID-19. It is urgent to use computational tools and molecular modelling to understand the complex structure of the virus in order to control it. Density functional theory methods, molecular dynamics simulations and deep-learning machines tools could be used to study and predict several understudied proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2 and see their ability to work on covid-19.

Stephanos Ioannou

Assist. Prof of Physiology
Director of Graduate Studies

Rapid thermo-sensitive detection of COVID-19 patients

Functional Infrared thermal Imaging (FITI) has been used in a variety of pivotal points for mass populations fever screening. FITI is a camera technology that harnesses temperature from a distance by any body above absolute zero. It does not emit any harmful radiation and it is non invasive. Currently FITI is the most attractive tool for mass fever screening however it is difficult to delineate to what extent FITI has been successful in unearthing any COVID-19 cases and if screening parameters have been successfully established for diagnoses. The current study aims to develop the parameters that need to be improved for FITI to become a reliable mainstream tool for mass fever screening at airports and large social gatherings not only for COVID-19 but also for future pandemics.

Dr. Abd-Elhamid M. Taha

Electrical Engineering

Safely Detecting Instances of Domestic Violence and Abuse During COVID-19 Lockdown

Lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a key non-physiological tool in combatting its spread. During lockdown, however, various reports have been made on the rise of domestic violence and abuse cases. The aim of this project is aid victims in providing a detection and alert system that does not jeopardize their safety, and using emerging techniques in affective (or emotion) sensing and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Adnan Abo Alhaija

Associate Professor, Finance Department College of Business

The effect of Covid-19 on Financial and Real Economic Activity

Coronavirus pandemic is both a health and an economic crisis. This crisis went beyond a public health emergency and became a destructive economic threat to all the economies of the world, causing economic and market damage and putting great pressure on the world financial system, causing acceleration in the rates of losses in the broader stock markets. This crisis has recessive impacts that are more severe and widespread than any decrease in production since the great depression. This study develops public health –related scenario models for the Covid-19 spread rates over medium and long term by using wavelet analysis, and taking benefit of available and emergent American CDC data. Outcomes of health-related scenario are analyzed with available and emerging data on major economic indicators such as GDP growth rates, unemployment, inflation, and stock market performance. Results show that Covid-19 crisis will last over the coming three to four quarters, within which the economies in Europe, Asia, and America will face unprecedented challenges.

Dr. Fazal Hussain

Director, Clinical Research College of Medicine

Short and long term impact of COVID-19 on the management of breast cancer patients; A single center experience

This study would determine the outcomes of breast cancer cases diagnosed, staged, and managed during the time COVID-19 pandemic; the onset time of their treatment, the health outcomes (cure, morbidity, mortality), the psychological impact for treatment delays as well as for being treated and coming to the hospital at the time of the pandemic. This collaborative research protocol will have significant impact on understanding and finding timely intervention for combating the COVID-19 pandemic to save lives. The focus is to augment the Kingdom's healthcare stakeholders in combating the rapidly evolving spread COVID-19 pandemic.

Rahma Lahyani

Assistant Professor of Operations Management, Supply Chain Management and Quantitative Methods

Optimizing hospital operations management under Covid-19 pandemic: a decision-making support system for Saudi hospitals

The sudden outbreak of the pandemic diseases and their rapid spread requires an efficient and optimised utilization of the limited available recourses. As logistics is a core function in healthcare operations, health decision-makers and planners need support from research professionals to identify courses of action, and collaboratively plan for health crisis. Aiming to make the best use out of the available resources, the goal of this research project is to plan operations in medical facilities, in a centralized way. Here we focus on two main decisions, inventory management and ambulance dispatch problem.

Prof. Dr. Welf Weiger

Assistant Professor of Marketing College of Business

Acceptance of Coronavirus Tracking Apps

The coronavirus pandemic has forced governments to make fast-paced and far-reaching decisions trading off societal health and economic prosperity. A potential tool to help relax regulations on social distancing are contact tracing apps that promise a quick identification and containment of new infections by tracking users’ social contact points. The controversial discussions of the specifications of such apps presents a challenge for providers of these apps because coronavirus tracking apps can only effectively prevent the spread of the disease if the app is used by the vast majority of the population (>60%). The research project, conducted by Dr. Welf Weiger from Alfaisal University in collaboration with Dr. Simon Trang and Dr. Manuel Trenz from the University of Goettingen, Germany, empirically examines the acceptance of this novel class of apps by, among others, assessing the effectiveness of alternative approaches to their usage of personal data, the app design from a user’s perspective and the communication strategy.