When COVID-19 emerged as a global health threat, scientists at the Yale School of Public Health immediately began investigating the virus in an attempt to stop its spread and save lives. To support that effort, the school established a Rapid Response Fund, a donor-driven initiative that allows urgently needed funding to be delivered quickly to researchers on the pandemic’s front lines.
The fund was made possible through a variety of donations, including a $700,000 gift from Yale alum Roger Barnett, Yale College,’86 (Summa Cum Laude), Yale Law, ’89; and prominent West Coast angel investor and business executive Chris Larsen.
Barnett is chairman and CEO of the Shaklee Corporation. A prominent YSPH supporter, he currently serves as a member of the YSPH Leadership Council and the Yale University President’s Council on International Activities. Larsen is co-founder of the online mortgage company E-Loan, and former CEO and current executive chairman and co-founder of Ripple, which developed a blockchain-based payment network. Larsen also co-founded Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace.
Donations to the fund have enabled nine YSPH scientists to conduct important research on COVID-19 in attempt to better understand how the virus infects humans, why some people become more seriously ill than others and what interventions may be best suited to stop the disease.
Professor Luke Davis, M.D., Ph.D., said a Rapid Response Fund award allowed him to investigate the timing and effectiveness of contact tracing efforts in New Haven in order to develop best practices. The fund also helped YSPH Assistant Professor Caroline Johnson and Yale School of Medicine Professor Akiko Iwasaki identify a link between a metabolic molecule and COVID-19 that may explain why men tend to get sicker and have worse health outcomes than women once they’re infected.