New $52 Million Antiviral Drug Discovery Center Established by Emory University and Georgia State University Researchers

ATLANTA — With $52 million in federal funding over the next three years, researchers from Emory University and Georgia State University will establish a groundbreaking new drug development center aimed at preventing the next pandemic.

The Antiviral Countermeasures Development Center (AC/DC) is one of nine antiviral drug discovery (AViDD) centers nationwide funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The new Emory and Georgia State center is led and co-founded by researchers with a history of collaborating on successful antiviral drugs, including molnupiravir, which was one of the world’s first antiviral pills approved for use. use against SARS-CoV-2.

The AC/DC will be led by George Painter, Ph.D.professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at Emory University School of Medicine, CEO of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE) and Executive Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development, and Richard Plemper, Ph.D.University Professor Emeritus and Director of Georgia State’s Center for Translational Antiviral Research.

National Institutes of Health announced funding from AC/DC and eight other AViDD Centers on May 18, noting that their mission will be to build a pipeline of antiviral drugs targeting SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses that may cause the next pandemic. The Emory/Georgia State Center will receive $52 million to fund the three-year effort.

“AViDD Centers will conduct innovative, multidisciplinary research to develop COVID-19 antiviral candidates, particularly those that can be taken on an outpatient basis, as well as antivirals targeting specific viral families with high potential to cause a pandemic in the future” , NIH said in a statement. “Importantly, the centers can draw on the resources of their industrial partners to accelerate research, using chemical libraries and corporate expertise to move candidates through the product development pipeline.”

AC/DC will be based in Atlanta – a global center for medical research and home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and will have affiliated research partners, including experts in viral pathogens and drug development, across the country and in the Baltic nation of Estonia.

“At the heart of this center is an alliance between Emory and Georgia State,” says Plemper. “We have identified a group of experts in viral pathogens and pioneers in new advanced methodology. This formidable group is a major force in the center. Drug development literally takes a village, and what we have brought together are leaders from that village who can get things done.

“Building world-class infrastructure and collaborations to advance the development of therapies that treat viral diseases of global concern must remain a top priority,” says Painter. “Utilizing the expertise and resources of Georgia State and Emory researchers will help us advance this important work while solidifying Atlanta as the public health capital of the world.”

The pair worked together most recently on molnupiravir, which was discovered by Painter and his team at Emory before becoming one of the world’s first oral drugs approved for the treatment of COVID-19. Both have spent their careers developing antiviral drugs to treat various illnesses, including those in the myxovirus family, such as influenza.

Their previous collaborations have focused on drugs to treat respiratory syncytial virus, a major threat to pediatric health and a common cause of bronchitis, as well as other paramyxoviruses, which cause mumps and measles.

“The NIH and NIAID have made a groundbreaking investment in pandemic preparedness and public health,” said Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves. “The Antiviral Countermeasures Development Center will generate breakthrough discoveries and build on innovations spearheaded for decades by Emory scientists and their Georgia State colleagues. Georgia has been a leader throughout the pandemic in medical research, treatment and clinical care, and we will continue to serve at an even higher level through this new center. »

“Our growing research business has more than doubled its spending over the past decade to nearly $200 million, and our goal is to continue that growth as we work to solve the world’s most complex challenges. 21st century,” Georgia State President Brian Blake said. said. “Partnerships like AC/DC, which bring together the strengths of two renowned institutions based here in Atlanta, are exactly what is needed to combat major public health threats like the ones we have experienced with COVID-19. . This work will be an essential part of the fight against the next pandemic. »

About George Painter:

George Painter, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at Emory University School of Medicine, CEO of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), and Executive Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development. Painter has decades of experience in the discovery and development of pharmaceutical agents for the global biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Within three years of its launch, DRIVE discovered and licensed an antiviral agent to a major pharmaceutical company and was awarded two major federal antiviral drug development contracts. Over the past 30 years he has played a major role in the discovery, development and implementation of modern antiviral therapy.

About Richard Plemper:

Richard Plemper, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and founding director of the Georgia State Center for Translational Antiviral Research. A leading expert in the biology of respiratory viruses, Plemper has established a program of research in the detection and development of antivirals in the state of Georgia over the past decade, with particular emphasis on viruses RNA respiratory diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses. He has developed orally active antivirals directed against major viral pathogens with pandemic potential. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Plemper pioneered breakthrough animal models of COVID-19 and helped advance several therapies currently licensed for human use or in clinical testing.

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