Scientific researchers worldwide are on the front lines of finding a cure to eliminate the invisible enemy that is COVID-19. Among those researchers is Alcorn State University’s Dr. Debarshi Roy, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Despite being a specialist in cancer research, Roy sees a need to contribute to ending the pandemic.
“I’ve realized that the state of Mississippi has many residents that suffer from health-related issues that are aggravated due to socio-economic conditions and disparity,” Roy said. “Although I’m trained in cancer research, I also have a research interest in other areas such as health disparity and metabolic disorders.”
Roy’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The Diverse: Issues in Higher Education website featured him in its article titled, “Minority Research Scientists Hunt for a COVID-19 Cure.” The journal reports critical news, information, and insightful commentary on the full range of issues concerning diversity in American education.
Finding the solution to why preexisting illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes enhances the virus in patients is what inspired Roy to focus his attention on the virus.
“COVID-19 is aggravated due to an existing health disparity in the United States. Health disparity is a major concern, especially in southern states,” he said. “My research is focused on the preexisting conditions that may aggravate the virus’ vulnerability.”
Roy said that building the immune system by adding certain foods can provide defense against the virus.
“Scientific studies have revealed that boosting your immune system is critical in the fight against this virus,” he said. “Consuming berries, which are filled with antioxidants, and citrus fruits for Vitamin-C, are effective in strengthening immunity. Spices such as turmeric and ginger can also enhance immune power. Regular usage of these natural ingredients infused with your diet is important.”
Working alongside Roy is Dr. Archie Taylor, also an assistant professor in the department. The two are establishing a biomedical research laboratory in the biology department. Their goal for the lab is to take an interdisciplinary approach to understand diseases and preventive measures.
The experience has been exciting for Taylor. Their research will be significant for the health of minorities.
“As the only doctor of molecular medicine in the state, it is an honor to contribute to this fight directly,” Taylor said. “The ability to combine biomedical research, bioinformatics, and molecular diagnostic tools with other expertise is encouraging.
“Working with Dr. Roy and his team of student researchers have been instrumental in helping to establish data. This research benefits communities of color by identifying high-risk groups beyond clinical presentation and providing a genetic account of possible mechanisms. Increasing representation of minority groups will allow us to treat better the virus and other metabolic diseases and disorders such as cancer, obesity and hypertension.”
Three students are also assisting Roy by collecting valuable data that would help their research efforts. Sofie Ievleva, a senior biology major from Voronezh, Russia, is responsible for monitoring Russia and other European countries. Her research is motivated by her desire to help the world return to safety.
“COVID-19 is the major factor that stands between us, our health and a happy future,” Ievleva said. “Lives of our families, friends and colleagues are at stake. I feel that it’s my responsibility to use my knowledge and resources to help science come up with a solution to decrease and possibly eliminate the virus. I want everyone around me to live in a safe environment. Our research team can be a small step toward that normalcy.”
Cardarius Lloyd, a senior biology pre-medicine major from Byram, Mississippi, is thankful for the opportunity to get hands-on research experience and make a difference.
“It’s such a prestigious honor for me because I get to become more knowledgeable about a virus that is causing issues around the globe,” Lloyd said. “Having access to research like this as an undergraduate is a blessing.”
Praise Ola, a junior biochemistry major from Lagos, Nigeria, spoke about how beneficial his research experience has been.
“I am both excited and honored to participate in this research project,” Ola said. “Working in the lab with Dr. Roy, Dr. Taylor, and the other students have been a thrilling experience. Thanks to the things I’ve learned in the lab, I was able to secure a summer internship for the first time this summer.”
Roy is proud of the team he has assembled. He believes that their work could play an essential role in changing the world.
“A strong research environment and a team with expertise from different domains would be vital to promote Alcorn as a leader in biomedical research in southwest Mississippi,” he said. “We want to make differences and perform meaningful research at Alcorn, which will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19 in Mississippi and the entire world.”