University of Minnesota receives $66 million to establish new antiviral drug discovery center

The University of Minnesota has received $66 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to establish a center to develop antiviral drugs for pandemic-level viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

The Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center is part of a network of nine national centers established by NIAID in response to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. The initial project period is three years with an anticipated extension to five years and additional funding of more than $20 million per year.

The COVID19 pandemic has highlighted the lack of therapeutic interventions for emerging viral diseases. Already we are seeing the promise antiviral drugs like Paxlovid can have against SARS-CoV-2. I am excited to help contribute to the development of new antiviral drugs through the Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery Center. New and innovative ways to target viruses will be essential in helping to mitigate, and maybe even prevent, the next pandemic."

Ryan Langlois, associate professor of microbiology, University of Minnesota Medical School

Midwest AViDD Center -; co-led by Dr. Reuben Harris, principal investigator and holds an appointment at the Medical School, and Dr. Fang Li, an endowed professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine -; brings together collaborative investigators from the University and sixteen other institutions nationwide.

"We are very excited about this opportunity to advance antiviral drug discovery. In the past two years, the University of Minnesota has played an important scientific role in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic," Li said. "Many thanks to the NIH for this support! We will continue to work closely with our colleagues from other institutions to achieve our mission."

Housed in the University of Minnesota Institute on Infectious Diseases, the Center is a key part of an overall initiative together bring expertise across disciplines to discover effective responses to pandemics, life threatening infections and antimicrobial resistance through basic, translational and clinical research.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to develop novel strategies to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 and other dangerous viruses," said Dr. Harris, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor at University of Texas Health San Antonio. "We are hopeful that our work will help to build a large armory of antiviral drugs to end COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics.

"We are pleased and proud of the hard work represented by this significant investment from the NIH in our collaborative faculty and their innovative efforts in tackling viral threats of pandemic potential," said Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, dean of the Medical School and vice president of clinical affairs. "In early 2020, our institution's faculty rallied to respond to SARS-CoV-2, and this award recognizes their innovative efforts."

Funding for this grant is provided by NIAID Grant Number: 1U19AI171954 - 01. The awards are a part of theAntiviral 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.

Including the University, all institutions involved are Baylor College of Medicine, Boston University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Nanyang Technological University Singapore, New York Blood Center, University of Arkansas, UF Scripps Biomedical Research, University of California Berkeley, University of California San Diego, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Iowa, University of Louisville, University of Mississippi, and University of Texas Health San Antonio.

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