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One virus, five scientific perspectives: coronavirus-research at Jacobs University Bremen

At Jacobs University, scientists from a wide range of disciplines are researching the effects of the coronavirus. (Source: Jacobs University)


August 4, 2020

The coronavirus threatens and changes our lives in many ways: It attacks individual cells, influences the value system of humans and has massive economic consequences. At Jacobs University, scientists from a wide range of disciplines are researching its effects. "We want to contribute to a better understanding of the virus and to its successful control. In doing so, it is important to us to draw lessons for the future," says Prof. Thomas Auf der Heyde, Provost at the international university.

The research group of the biochemist and cell biologist Prof. Dr. Sebastian Springer is working together with the group of Dr. Charlotte Uetrecht at the Heinrich-Pette-Institute (Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology) in Hamburg on an immune response against the virus. If it attacks a human cell, fragments of the viral proteins (peptides) bind to cellular proteins (receptors), which then provide the immune system with information about the virus infection. This way, the destruction of the virus-infected cell can be initiated. In order to understand the immune response, it is necessary to know which peptides bind to the receptors. For this purpose, Springer’s group has produced particularly stable versions of the receptors. This novel method has only been developed during the last few months and is now being used for the first time.

In contrast, a study by political scientist Dr. Franziska Deutsch and the psychologists Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kühnen and Prof. Dr. Klaus Boehnke focuses on the influence of the pandemic on people's value orientation. The virus is associated with fears that lead to the rejection of everything foreign and approval of rather authoritarian government action as well as to an increase in global solidarity based on the universality of the threat. A representative study with around 2000 respondents each in Germany and Great Britain showed that British people are much more afraid of the pandemic than Germans. The more pronounced the fears, the greater seems to be the approval of security, order, authority, or conformity measures. The extent to which this is a sustainable change in values will be further investigated. Prof. Dr. Jan Delhey (University of Magdeburg), Dr. Jan Eichhorn (University of Edinburgh) and Prof. Dr. Christian Welzel (Leuphana University Lüneburg) are also involved in the research project.

The research group of Prof. Dr. Tilo Halaszovich, Professor for Global Markets and Firms at Jacobs University, is concerned with the effects of the corona-crisis on the investment and trade relations of German medium-sized companies with emerging markets. How strongly is the foreign business of medium-sized companies affected and what are the consequences for the companies? Are they withdrawing from individual countries and opening up new ones as suppliers or sales markets? These are some of the questions of the research project. "On the other hand, we are very interested in whether certain regions and emerging markets could benefit from possible restructuring," says Prof. Halaszovich. "This also applies above all to African countries, which have so far been seen by the German economy primarily as sales markets but not as procurement markets."

What lessons can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic for humanitarian pandemic aid? The role of public-private partnerships (PPP) is the subject of a project by Dr. Stanislav Chankov, lecturer for Supply Chain Management. The aim is to examine whether and how cooperation between the private and public sectors in the form of a partnership can improve the provision and distribution of aid in the event of a pandemic. Cases of forced and voluntary aid as well as PPP cooperations will be analyzed – such as clothing companies producing masks and medical gowns, cosmetics companies producing disinfectants or technology companies offering respiratory equipment. The project is based on the bachelor thesis of Camilia Popoff, Jacobs graduate of the class of 2020. One of her theories is that the early establishment of public-private partnerships could limit the damage of pandemics.

The extent to which the coronavirus has changed our everyday life is a subject of research by Prof. Dr. Sonia Lippke and her team. Together with her colleagues, the Professor of Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine at Jacobs University Bremen has also compiled a series of tips and strategies for a healthy lifestyle during corona periods. She is involved in several studies on hand hygiene and communication of hospital staff during these exceptional times. Prof. Lippke is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the 3rd Federal Government Report on Participation by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Participation research is still a young field of research that deals with the living conditions, participation and involvement of people with disabilities. The advisory board also discusses measures to buffer the corona-crisis for people with disabilities and impairments.
Interested parties can support Lippke's research by participating in an online survey.
Link to the survey:

About Jacobs University Bremen:
Studying in an international community. Obtaining a qualification to work on responsible tasks in a digitized and globalized society. Learning, researching and teaching across academic disciplines and countries. Strengthening people and markets with innovative solutions and advanced training programs. This is what Jacobs University Bremen stands for. Established as a private, English-medium campus university in Germany in 2001, it is continuously achieving top results in national and international university rankings. Its more than 1,500 students come from more than 120 countries with around 80% having relocated to Germany for their studies. Jacobs University’s research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation or the EU Research and Innovation program as well as by globally leading companies.
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