Gerard Wong, professor of bioengineering in the  UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, and Melody Li, assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, have received a one-year, $200,000  rapid-response research grant  from the National Science Foundation to look at the underlying molecular reasons that make the novel coronavirus so infectious.

The study will also explore why this particular coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can lead to inflammation strong enough to be fatal. 

Using machine learning, the researchers will look at the virus’s genome, searching its code for the molecules produced by the virus that help it enter cells, and the molecules that may be the underlying causes of the disease's sometimes deadly inflammation. Importantly, a major focus of this work is to find ways to disable these molecules. 

Wong also has a faculty appointment in chemistry and biochemistry in the UCLA College, and is a member of the California NanoSystems Institute.