ATLANTA — Georgia State University was highlighted in a press briefing Oct. 6 by the White House COVID-19 response team, which recognized the university’s contribution to groundbreaking research that led to the development of molnupiravir, a new antiviral drug that has been recommended for emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 in the United States.
Dr. Richard Plemper, Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Translational Antiviral Research in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, and his team tested molnupiravir in animals. They were the first to demonstrate the drug is orally active against SARS-CoV-2 in animals and that treatment completely suppresses virus transmission to untreated contacts within 24 hours.
In the White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and also the chief medical adviser on COVID-19 to President Biden, acknowledged the institutions that participated in the cross-collaborative research and product development efforts that led to this major medical breakthrough, including NIAID, Emory University, Georgia State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University.
The drug was developed by Drug Innovations at Emory (DRIVE) and licensed to Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which partnered with Merck to complete clinical trials. The clinical studies found the oral antiviral drug led to a 50 percent decrease in hospitalization or death in patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 compared to those who received a placebo.
“So, finally, we have another potential tool — again, pending very close scrutiny by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] — a promising new oral drug that people could take at home soon after COVID-19 to reduce the risk of severe outcomes,” Fauci said in the White House press briefing.
The Biden administration has announced U.S. government procurement of this investigational antiviral for COVID-19 treatment. The antiviral compound must now undergo the usual process of careful examination of data by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, both for effectiveness and safety, Fauci said.
Plemper is the principal investigator of a $5 million partnerships grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore the use of EIDD-2801 against influenza. Together with DRIVE CEO Dr. George Painter, he reported activity of EIDD-2801 against pandemic influenza in the journal Science Translational Medicine before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Plemper’s group quickly redirected its research to SARS-CoV-2 and published in the journal Nature Microbiology the first demonstration that molnupiravir is orally active against SARS-CoV-2 in an animal model. The group also established proof-of-concept that treatment completely suppresses virus transmission to untreated contacts within 24 hours.
To read the White House press briefing, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/10/06/press-briefing-by-white-house-covid-19-response-team-and-public-health-officials-60/.
To view the COVID-19 press briefing slides, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/COVID-Press-Briefing_6October2021.pdf.
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