PREPARING FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC
A new research center led by Richard Plemper in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences will develop critical antiviral drugs to meet the challenge of existing and newly evolving threats, such as coronaviruses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons, particularly that infectious diseases can have a devastating impact on life as we know it.
We’ve seen that it’s imperative to not only have ways to prevent severe diseases, but also treat them. The availability of treatments such as antiviral drugs can often determine whether someone lives or dies.
Antiviral medications can ease symptoms, shorten the length of disease and interrupt viral transmission chains in the community. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these drugs to guard against major disease threats.
Richard Plemper, a Distinguished University Professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), is on a mission to develop broad-spectrum antiviral drugs to expand our arsenal of therapeutics to treat existing and newly evolving viruses and hopefully stop the next deadly virus in its tracks.
In July, Georgia State established the Center for Translational Antiviral Research (CTAR) in IBMS. With Plemper as director, the new center is focused on developing drugs to treat infections by RNA viruses of high pandemic potential, such as coronaviruses and influenza viruses.
There is a lack of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs for these RNA viruses as a first-line defense option, Plemper said. The pandemic has also exposed many urban health disparities, and Plemper wants to address this unmet medical need by developing affordable, orally available treatments.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critical need for next-generation, orally available antiviral therapeutics that are reasonably priced and effective against a wide range of viruses,” said Plemper. “We need to proactively develop applicable antiviral drugs that improve our preparedness against newly evolving viral pathogens before another novel pandemic viral threat emerges.”
Often, there is a gap in translating basic scientific discoveries into applicable therapeutic candidates. The CTAR was established to bridge the divide for promising laboratory discoveries and position Georgia State and IBMS as a major hub for essential antiviral drug development.
The CTAR will bring together an interdisciplinary group of faculty experts in viral infections and antiviral drug discovery for a common goal: to convert their basic scientific discoveries into therapeutic candidates that will meet the threats presented by existing and newly evolving viruses. They plan to harness the university’s research strengths in drug discovery, RNA viruses and high-biocontainment infectious diseases.
Ultimately, Plemper envisions that the CTAR will foster the commercialization of scientific discoveries through biotech startups and partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies.
The CTAR provides a new framework, he said, to leverage the outstanding expertise at Georgia State and in the state of Georgia in antiviral drug development to address the major clinical need for effective novel therapeutics.
Illustration by Reid Schulz (B.F.A. ’18)