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Brittany Jennings
July 29, 2020



The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory based at UNC-Chapel Hill will distribute $29 million toward 85 research projects focused on treatment, community testing and prevention of COVID-19.

The rollout includes four projects from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Each of the funded research projects are intended to provide new data and information to North Carolina lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s pandemic response. The collaboratory will be required to provide an update to the North Carolina General Assembly in September about the status of its research projects, which will be occurring across 14 UNC System campuses.

“We have a tremendous number of remarkable teams at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy who are dedicating their time and talents to serving our state in the midst of this pandemic,” said Angela Kashuba, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Together, they are going beyond excellence and Advancing Medicine for Life.”

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy lead PI projects include:

Preclinical Development of a Potent Muco-Trapping Antibody Against SARS-CoV-2 for Inhaled Immunotherapy and Prophylaxis Against COVID-19
Lead Researcher: Sam Lai
Budget: $798,352
This study seeks to engineer a neutralizing monoclonal antibody against SARS-CoV-2.

Expanding Telehealth Services to Prevent COVID-19 in Rural North Carolina
Lead Researcher: Jon Easter
Budget: $65,705
This study will increase telehealth implementation through creating four rural NC clinics to expand safe care for vulnerable patients.

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy co-PIs on projects include Tim Willson and Ken Pearce:
The Willson lab will identify and/or generate small molecule inhibitors, which will then be tested by the Moorman lab for antiviral activity. The Willson lab will also optimize hit and lead compounds confirmed by the Baric and Heise labs to have antiviral activity against SARS2. Budget: $215,115.

The Pearce lab, as part of the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (CICBDD), will optimize the pharmacological properties of existing hit compounds with the goal of delivering a clinical candidate through the READDI drug development effort. The Pearce lab, in coordination with the Willson lab, will also generate new hit compounds based on validated SARS2 targets. All efforts will be coordinated with the Willson lab to avoid duplication of efforts. Budget: $196,039.

Funding for all projects comes from a $1.5 billion coronavirus relief package approved by state legislators and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper. The bill includes $85 million for five North Carolina universities to study and fight the virus.

“The collaboratory has worked diligently to solicit and assemble a diverse set of strategic research projects from across the UNC System,” said Jeffrey Warren, executive director of the North Carolina Collaboratory. “The 85 projects chosen are intended to provide critical data to our state over a short timeframe to address both the economic and public health components of this pandemic within North Carolina and make a positive impact fighting COVID-19 in our state.”

You can learn more about other COVID-19 Research at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy here.

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