The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been awarded $35 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to establish a research center focused on developing new drug therapies for global infectious disease threats such as influenza, West Nile and Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus, according to a university press release.
The 5-year grant will go toward creating the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, or AD3C. Richard Whitley, MD, distinguished professor of pediatrics and director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine, has been named principal investigator and program director of AD3C.
According to Whitley, the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance (ADDA) — a partnership between UAB and Southern Research Institute (SRI) created in 2008 to develop new drugs — paved the way for the NIH grant.
“UAB and SRI have spent a lot of time, money and energy developing the ADDA over the last 5 years,” Whitley said in the release. “Having done that, being awarded this grant shows how that investment can pay off.”
The new center will specifically focus on four virus types: influenza, flaviviruses, coronaviruses and alphaviruses. There, scientists from UAB, SRI and other research institutions will work together to develop treatments that target specific enzymes that are essential to viral replication.
“These families of viruses are of the highest priority for the US government; they represent both biologic threats and unmet medical needs,” Whitley said. “We will also strive to develop therapies for emerging infections such as coronaviruses, dengue and chikungunya, which pose risks for traveling US citizens or could be imported into the country.”