Here’s how Illinois’ innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs are taking on COVID-19

COVID-19 may be the defining societal challenge of our time. Over the past several weeks, the magnitude of this challenge has increasingly come into focus—as too has the need to proactively support healthcare workers and our local communities. Fortunately, Illinois’ innovation community is rising to the challenge. 

The state’s flagship universities, groundbreaking federal labs, most innovative companies, and catalyzing community organizations are leveraging their expertise to fight the pandemic and save lives.

Illinois’ universities are creating innovative solutions for healthcare workers and supporting response in their local communities. In just a few short weeks, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering have created a new prototype ventilator, coined RapidVent, to help address shortages. Researchers at Northwestern are actively working to identify a potential COVID-19 vaccine and are developing a new self-sanitizing face mask. In addition to providing frontline medical care, the University of Chicago has created a $2 million partnership with local nonprofits to prepare and deliver 225,000 meals over 10 weeks to residents on Chicago’s South Side.

RapidVent prototype, courtesy of University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering

Across the state, universities are also partnering with state and local officials to contribute equipment and increase testing capacity. This includes coordination through the Illinois Innovation Network—an interconnected system of state universities and innovation hubs—which is actively rallying its membership and sharing best practices to streamline response.

Illinois’ universities are creating innovative solutions for healthcare workers and supporting response in their local communities.

The state’s federal R&D labs are also contributing to the effort. Argonne National Lab is leveraging its Advanced Photon Source (APS) accelerator to search for an inhibitor molecule within the virus, while also deploying its supercomputers to study potential drug treatments.

Argonne’s Theta supercomputer, courtesy of

Illinois’ corporate community is joining the fight as well. Abbott has made perhaps the most substantial breakthrough in COVID-19 testing to date, announcing a new point-of-care test that can deliver results in as little as five minutes. The new test has received emergency FDA clearance, and Abbott is ramping up to supply 50,000 tests per day. Companies across the state are also providing financial support to local response efforts. Horizon Therapeutics and State Farm, have each pledged $1 million to COVID-19 response in Illinois, while Abbvie is donating $35 million to support response in the U.S. and abroad.

Abbott has made perhaps the most substantial breakthrough in COVID-19 testing to date…

Finally, Illinois’ innovation-supporting community organizations are stepping up to help boost response and fortify supply chains. The Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA) and the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO) have joined forces to ensure the life-saving medical equipment remains available to healthcare workers. This includes the creation of iBIO’s COVID-19 PPE Response Fund, which is sending medical equipment directly to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). The Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC) is also working to fill gaps in the supply chain, pairing suppliers and manufacturers.

Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 test, courtesy of

The state’s entrepreneurship community is stepping up as well. 1871, Matter, and mHUB have teamed up to mobilize their network entrepreneurs, software developers, engineers, designers, and industry experts to create new solutions in the fight against the virus. mHUB—Chicago’s leading physical product innovation and makerspace—is already producing face shields for healthcare workers and partnering with Northwestern Medicine to ship them where they’re needed most. 

The activities mentioned here are just a small portion of the work being done to take on this new challenge. Though the fight against COVID-19 is not yet won, Illinois’ innovation community has already shown the resourcefulness and grit necessary to overcome this challenge. 

For the latest resources and a list of available assistance programs, visit ISTC’s COVID-19 Resource Center.



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