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Tohono O'odham Nation donates $1M each to UA, ASU for COVID-19 research

Tohono O'odham Nation donates $1M each to UA, ASU for COVID-19 research

The University of Arizona is receiving $1 million for COVID-19 research from the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Tohono O’odham Nation is contributing $1 million each to the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to support their world-renowned medical researchers’ efforts to combat COVID-19.

“This virus is showing no signs of letting up, and until we have better testing, treatment and a vaccine, our communities remain at risk and our economy will continue to falter,” said Ned Norris, Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation during a news conference at the UA College of Medicine in Phoenix Monday.

“That is why the nation made the decision to contribute these funds — which we were already committed to share — to support the world-class research taking place right here in Arizona that is working to overcome the pandemic,” Norris said.

The funding will come from the nation’s 12% gaming revenue grants that are required under its tribal-state gaming compact to share with local community programs, according to a news release. The O’odham, which operate four casinos, have awarded more than 500 of these grants since enactment of the compact in 2003 and with large awards, the program allows for funding to come from multiple fiscal years, officials said.

Both UA and ASU researchers will use the funds to mitigate the impact and disruptive consequences of the coronavirus, said officials, including new testing methods and tools to enable the effective and equitable deployment of emerging technologies.

UA researchers have been involved in understanding the coronavirus and testing people across the state since the pandemic’s arrival in the United States in the spring. An antibody test developed by immunologists in the College of Medicine-Tucson has been deployed throughout Arizona in partnership with Gov. Doug Ducey, according to the UA.

The UA also developed a program to quickly test its students, faculty and staff, and has shared testing kits with communities across the state, said UA officials. UA President Robert C. Robbins said the nation’s gift will enable researchers to create new, more efficient, effective and affordable COVID-19 tests.

“The University of Arizona is proud to partner with the Tohono O’odham Nation, particularly as our main campus is located on their ancestral homelands,” said Robbins. “As Arizona’s land-grant university, our mission is to serve the entire state, and the nation’s support will allow this work to continue and expand, and help Arizona emerge stronger from this pandemic,” Robbins said.

ASU President Michael M. Crow said the university is grateful for the nation’s support, and the gift “will enable us to intensify our efforts to manage the complexities of this pandemic and prepare for future public-health emergencies by investing in scientific preparedness.”

Crow said more than 2,000 researchers at ASU were working to better understand the coronavirus and come up with science-based solutions to fight it.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104. On Twitter: @cduartestar

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