By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering
When the spread of COVID-19 started to affect the University of Connecticut, the state, and the country, Ranjan Srivastava, department head for Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, knew he had to spring into action.
Drawing on his previous work in mathematically modeling how the Hepatitis B virus spreads, Srivastava realized he could apply the principles of what he knew to the behavior of COVID-19, which could be useful to other researchers and drug companies.
“COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Our goal is to mathematically model how the virus replicates within an infected cell and how the infection spreads within the human body,” Srivastava says. “If we can model how the virus replicates, we can identify the best drug targets to interrupt that process.”
While researchers have been specializing and doing parts and pieces of what Srivastava is doing, what sets his models apart is looking at the virus as a whole, through the lens of the virus as a complete system.
“I think the system idea is best explained via an analogy. Imagine you have a car that is completely taken apart and all the pieces are laid out in front of you. You could have one person who studies tires and is an expert in them, another who is an expert in seat belts, a third expert in catalytic converters,” Srivastava says. “However, only by studying all the pieces together can one actually understand the purpose of a car and how it works. It is the same way with viruses.”