Antiviral drug research center to be developed at University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine announced on March 19 that it will establish the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development center on campus.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will fund AD3C up to $35 million over five years, according to UAB News.

Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Richard Whitely will be the principal investigator and program director, UAB News reports.

"UAB and (Southern Research Institute) have spent a lot of time, money and energy developing the (Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance) over the last five years," Whitley said, according to UAB News. "Having done that, being awarded this grant shows how that investment can pay off."

The center's focus will be developing treatments for influenza, flaviviruses, coronaviruses and alphaviruses. The RNA virus families cause diseases such as West Nile, chikungunya, dengue, Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome. Researchers will collaborate with scientists from major institutions to research and target specific enzymes essential for viral replication and gene expression.

"These families of viruses are of the highest priority for the U.S. government; they represent both biologic threats and unmet medical needs," Whitley said, according to UAB News.

Whitley said the burden of RNA-caused diseases is significant across the globe, with West Nile virus and influenza as a main concern for U.S. citizens, UAB News reports.

"The best outcome of this research would be that, over the next five years, we're able to develop drugs that can treat humans who have influenza, dengue fever, West Nile virus, SARS coronavirus, MERS coronavirus and chikungunya," Whitley said, according to UAB News. "This team of investigators from across the country and their respective institutions represent terrific intellectual talent to address these challenges."