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ETSU’s first major COVID-19 research grant to explore disease’s impact on diabetes

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Zhi Q. Yao was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to explore the impact of diabetes on COVID-19 and the impact of COVID-19 on diabetes and related complications.
The grant is ETSU’s first major funding for COVID-19-specific research.
The ADA states that “recent clinical results have shown that people with diabetes are at higher risk of death from COVID-19 and that COVID-19 drives an increased risk of hyperglycemia and other complications in those with and without diabetes. This is in addition to the risk due to advanced age and chronic disease.”
Yao’s grant is part of the ADA’s targeted research grant program to fund studies to gain a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying this risk and how to minimize it.
 “The goal of this study is to gain fundamental insights and guide future management of patients with COVID-19 with or without diabetes and its complications,” Yao said.  
Yao serves as professor in ETSU Quillen College of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine and as the director of both the ETSU Center of Excellence for HIV/AIDS and the Hepatitis (HCV/HIV) Program, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He is also a member of ETSU’s Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity.
He will be joined by co-investigator Dr. Juan Zhao, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Internal Medicine, for this innovative translational study, which will be one of the first utilizing a new COVID-19 biorepository, housed at the VA. The study will locally recruit 40 COVID-19-recovered subjects and 40 control subjects to contribute samples to the new biorepository.
Currently, ETSU and the VA are seeking patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood samples to the new biorepository to be used in this current study and future COVID-19 research. To learn more, click https://www.etsu.edu/etsu-news/2020/08-august/biorepository-for-coronavirus-research.php or contact James L. Adkins, clinical research coordinator, at 423-930-8337, ext. 132.