NIAID Announces Antiviral Drug Development Awards

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow) within endosomes of a heavily infected nasal Olfactory Epithelial Cell.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded approximately $577 million to establish nine Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern.

The AViDD centers will conduct innovative, multidisciplinary research to develop candidate COVID-19 antivirals, especially those that can be taken in an outpatient setting, as well as antivirals targeting specific viral families with high potential to cause a pandemic in the future. These include paramyxoviruses, bunyaviruses, togaviruses, filoviruses (including Ebola viruses and Marburg virus), picornaviruses (including enteroviruses and other cold-causing viruses), and flaviviruses (including the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue and Zika). 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.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for new antiviral drugs, especially those that could easily be taken by patients at home while their symptoms are still mild, ” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “Decades of prior research on the structure and vulnerabilities of coronaviruses greatly accelerated our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope that similar research focused on antivirals will better prepare us for the next pandemic.”

The AViDD centers will conduct research on the early-stage identification and validation of novel viral targets, with an eye to identify small molecules and biotherapeutics that directly block viral targets. As drug candidates are identified and evaluated for properties such as potency and breadth, the most promising will enter late-stage preclinical development. Importantly, the centers can draw on the resources of their industry partners to accelerate research, making use of the companies’ chemical libraries and expertise in moving candidates into the product development pipeline.

The AViDD award recipients are:

Center for Antiviral Medicines & Pandemic Preparedness
Principal Investigator: Sumit Chanda, Ph.D.
Institute: Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California

UTMB-Novartis Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness
Principal Investigator: Pei-Yong Shi, Ph.D.
Institute: The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative – AViDD Center
Principal Investigator: Ralph Baric, Ph.D.
Institute: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Development of Outpatient Antiviral Cocktails against SARS-CoV-2 and other Potential Pandemic RNA Viruses
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Glenn, M.D., Ph.D.
Institute: Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

Antiviral Countermeasures Development Center 
Principal Investigators: George Painter, Ph.D. and Richard Plemper, Ph.D.
Institutes: Emory University and Georgia State University, Atlanta

Metropolitan AntiViral Drug Accelerator
Principal Investigator: David Perlin, Ph.D.
Institute: Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, New Jersey

QBI Coronavirus Research Group Pandemic Response Program
Principal Investigator: Nevan Krogan, Ph.D.
Institute: University of California, San Francisco

Midwest AViDD Center
Principal Investigator: Reuben Harris, Ph.D.
Institute: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

AI-Driven Structure-Enabled Antiviral Platform 
Principal Investigators: Ben Perry, Ph.D.; Alpha Lee, Ph.D.; John Chodera, Ph.D.
Institutes: Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative; PostEra; Sloan Kettering Institute and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City

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