Colloquium Event

The National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory R&D for Rapid Response to the COVID-19 Crisis


While the precise origins and timeline of COVID-19 remain unclear, in December of 2019 doctors realized that they were dealing with a dangerous new virus causing severe acute respiratory syndrome in Wuhan, China. Despite efforts at containment, the SARS-CoV-2 virus rapidly spread around the world. 

As part of the national response to this pandemic, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory (NVBL, in March 2020 to address key challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis, supported by funding from the 2020 CARES Act. The NVBL brought together the broad scientific and technical expertise and resources of DOE’s 17 national laboratories to address medical supply shortages, discover potential drugs to fight the virus, develop and verify COVID-19 testing methods, model disease spread and impact across the nation, and understand virus transport in buildings and the environment. National laboratory resources leveraged for this effort include the DOE Office of Science’s suite of world-leading user facilities, including the light and neutron sources, nanoscale science research centers, sequencing and biocharacterization facilities, and high-performance computing facilities. 

Within just a few months, NVBL teams produced innovations in materials and advanced manufacturing that mitigated shortages in test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE), creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. They used DOE’s high-performance computers and light and neutron sources to identify promising candidates for antibodies and antivirals that universities and drug companies are now evaluating. NVBL researchers also developed new diagnostic targets and sample collection approaches and supported U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Department of Defense (DoD) efforts to establish national guidelines used in administering millions of tests. Researchers used artificial intelligence and high-performance computing to produce near-real-time analysis of data to forecast disease transmission, stress on public health infrastructure, and economic impact, supporting decision-makers at the local, state, and national levels. NVBL teams also studied how to control indoor virus movement to minimize uptake and protect human health.

This seminar will discuss examples of NVBL’s COVID-19 accomplishments as well as potential future directions. The NVBL serves as an outstanding model for developing and sustaining DOE’s capabilities to respond to future national needs or emergencies.

Research was supported by the DOE Office of Science through the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory, a consortium of DOE national laboratories focused on response to COVID-19, with funding provided by the Coronavirus CARES Act.

Speaker Name

Stephen Streiffer

Speaker Institution

National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory; Argonne National Laboratory

Speaker Information

Stephen Streiffer is the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology, Interim Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences, and Director of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne. The Photon Sciences directorate consists of the X-ray Science, Accelerator Systems and Advanced Photon Source Engineering Support divisions, which comprise the Advanced Photon Source (APS); and the Argonne Accelerator Institute.

The APS is the brightest source of high-energy X-rays in the Western Hemisphere and is used to study the structures of materials and processes at the atomic scale. It is also the largest scientific user facility in the North America, with more than 3,500 users visiting each year.

He has also served as interim director of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, a national user facility that provides capabilities explicitly tailored to the creation and characterization of new functional materials on the nanoscale. The center’s portfolio includes research on electronic and magnetic materials and devices, nanobio interfaces, nanofabrication, nanophotonics, theory and modeling, and X-ray microscopy.

Dr. Streiffer’s scientific expertise is in nanostructured complex oxides and in structural characterization of materials particularly using transmission electron microscopy and X-ray scattering techniques.

Overarching themes in his research program include the development of novel concepts for integration of oxide heterostructures, establishing a fundamental understanding of polar interfaces, and exploring how these interfaces may be manipulated to influence electronic and chemical function.

His active research projects focus on utilizing in-situ synchrotron X-ray methods to probe chemical vapor deposition of complex oxides as well as phase transformations and nanoscale size effects in ferroic thin films. He is also currently involved in in-situ synchrotron X-ray studies of the synthesis of InGaN heterostructures as part of an effort to expand the basic understanding of materials for energy-efficient solid state lighting. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific publications and holds one patent.


through PST