ATLANTA—Georgia State University researchers are partnering with the University of Minnesota and other institutions to establish a new Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center. The scientists have been awarded more than $6 million in grant funding to conduct antiviral therapeutic development, medicinal chemistry and drug design work to build a pipeline of antiviral drugs targeting SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.
The funding is part of a plan by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish nine centers nationwide. The overall effort is worth approximately $577 million, and $66 million has been awarded to the Midwest AViDD Center.
This new center, led by the University of Minnesota Institute on Infectious Diseases, will bring together researchers from across the country. Georgia State scientists will serve as project leaders over two of the center’s five projects.
Dr. Lanying Du, a professor and researcher with the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, will lead a project to develop potent, safe and cost-effective antiviral therapeutics against COVID-19 and diseases caused by other pandemic viruses.
“We appreciate the research funds from the NIH to continue our work to develop novel antiviral therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging viruses with pandemic potential,” Du said. “I am very excited that the Institute for Biomedical Sciences will be part of the Midwest AViDD Center and has the opportunity to work together with other key investigators in this center to fight against these pandemic viruses.”
Chemistry professor and member of the Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Dr. Ming Luo will lead a project to focus on antiviral inhibitors to block virus entry into the host cell during infection.
“By combining our innovative technologies, a panel of novel antiviral compounds will be discovered to tackle major viral pathogens,” Luo said. “The world will be in a better position to fight future virus pandemics.”
Regents’ Professor of Chemistry, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Director of the Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Dr. Binghe Wang will lead a sub-contract as part of the Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) Core for the center.
“We are thrilled that the Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics will play a role in this new Midwest center and have the opportunity to make significant contributions to address the unmet needs in novel antiviral drugs,” Wang said.
As a virologist and immunologist, Dr. Mukesh Kumar, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, will work as a co-investigator on Dr. Luo’s project. He will lead the pre-clinical studies to evaluate therapeutic efficacy of novel antivirals using various cell culture and animal models of emerging infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
This center is being launched conjointly with the groundbreaking, new alliance between researchers at Emory University and Georgia State to establish a new $52 million antiviral drug discovery center in Atlanta.
Vice President of Research and Economic Development, Dr. Tim Denning, says the new collaborative research projects are a testament to the innovative work being done by researchers at Georgia State.
“The pandemic has shown us how critical it is to focus on creating new treatments and work to prevent the next outbreak,” said Denning. “The participation in this undertaking by so many of our Georgia State researchers is a shining example of the talented and forward-thinking scientists working collaboratively to translate basic science advances into societal impact.”
Funding for this grant is provided by NIAID Grant Number: 1U19AI171954 - 01. The awards are a part of the Antiviral Program for Pandemics (APP), an intensive research program designed to speed development of therapeutics for COVID-19. APP is led by NIAID, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs, all part of NIH; and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of HHS.