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Philanthropy Fuels the Fight Against COVID-19

As of early November, Northwestern had received more than $4.1 million in gifts and commitments for pandemic-related initiatives.

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Northwestern community members must wear masks in all public and shared environments on campus.

Winter 2021
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Coming together to solve the most critical problems is a defining Northwestern characteristic. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020, the University’s philanthropic community has responded by funding high-impact research as well as providing resources to help students learn remotely and return to campus. Donor support has been crucial to the continuation of Northwestern’s research and teaching missions.

Feinberg School of Medicine alumnus and University Trustee Andrew “Drew” Senyei ’79 MD and his wife, Noni, made a substantial gift to help launch Northwestern’s Screening for Coronavirus Antibodies in Neighborhoods (SCAN) study, which identifies individuals in Chicago who have been infected with COVID-19 and provides them with at-home antibody tests — a simple fingerprick generates a single drop of blood that is dried on a special filter paper and mailed to a lab for analysis.

In total, the study will evaluate 5,000 participants, testing their blood samples when they enroll and again six months later to determine if the antibodies offer any immunity.

The study began in summer 2020. Early results, made available last fall, suggest infection rates were higher than previously thought. Nearly one in five participants tested positive for antibodies. If COVID-19 antibodies are found to provide some level of defense, this information will be essential to assuaging the virus.

“Given the urgency of the pandemic, philanthropic grants offer the fastest way to empower our researchers so we can develop strategies and policies to mitigate the impact of this health crisis,” Drew Senyei says.

Benefactors also have made in-kind gifts of personal protective equipment (PPE) to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at Northwestern. Andrea and Anthony Melchiorre ’89 donated the contents for 15,000 PPE kits for students returning to campus this academic year. Each kit contains five reusable cloth masks, two bottles of hand sanitizer, one packet of disinfectant wipes and a digital thermometer. The couple also donated 11,000 KN95 masks for use by research personnel and students and others in need of this type of PPE.

“For us, this gift is a way to help safeguard the health of those who are on campus,” Andrea Melchiorre says.

Driven by the same goal, Upside Health donated 60,000 three-ply medical face masks — 50,000 for use in Norris University Center and 10,000 for Chicago Field Studies, a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences program that pairs an internship with academic coursework.

“This pandemic requires everyone to take initiative and do their part,” says Jonathan Hanitio ’20, who facilitated the gift along with fellow Upside Health volunteers Ryan Teo ’21 and Stella Lin ’21.

Donors also have supported the technology needs — laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and internet — of students who started the academic year in a remote learning environment.

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