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Our researchers and labs are actively pursuing solutions to combat the COVID-19 virus.


Jon Easter

Professor of the Practice, Center for Medication Optimization

“Expanding Telehealth Services to Prevent COVID-19 in Rural North Carolina” — This study will increase telehealth implementation through creating four rural NC clinics to expand safe care for vulnerable patients.

Learn more about the Center for Medication Optimization


Gang Fang, PharmD, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy

Testing a novel AI synthetic sampling (SynSam) technology to boost machine-learning prediction accuracy for adverse drug events: the clinical case of arrhythmia from hydroxycholorquine, has been favorably reviewed.

Learn more about the Gang Fang Lab


Anthony Hickey, Ph.D.

Director, UNC Catalyst for Rare Disease  

Using his expertise in pharmaceutical formulations of antivirals and aerosol
therapeutics to develop inhaled therapeutics that deliver COVID-19 medications directly to the lungs.

Learn more about the UNC Catalyst


Alexander V. Kabanov, Ph.D., Dr.Sci.

Director, Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery
Mescal S. Ferguson Distinguished Professor Co-Director
Carolina Institute for Nanomedicine Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering 

Developing mechanisms to deliver anti-CoV drugs and therapeutic agents directly to the
respiratory track. His team is actively working on aerosolized delivery of insoluble active
compounds. Kabanov is part of a self-assembled cross-disciplinary consortium that includes Hickey, Angela Kashuba, and Alex Tropsha, as well as experts from the UNC Schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Learn more about the CNDD


Angela Kashuba, BSc.Phm., Pharm.D. DABCP FCP

John A. and Margaret P. McNeill, Sr. Distinguished Professor
Director, Clinical Pharmacology and Analytical Chemistry Core, UNC Center for AIDS Research

Applying her expertise in mass spectrometry imaging to analyze how potential COVID-19 therapeutic drugs might behave in cells to support human recovery from infection.

Learn more about the Kashuba Lab


Sam Lai, Ph.D.

Director, Pharmacoengineering Program
Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics

Developing a variety of muco-trapping monoclonal antibody (mAb) candidates as inhaled immunotherapies against COVID-19. Lai’s team is actively evaluating the first antibody candidate in a hamster efficacy model after receiving positive data from in vitro studies. This compound can be fast-tracked to human studies within 2–3 months, pending support from U.S. Department of Defense sponsors. In parallel, Lai’s team is engineering various novel mAbs for use against COVID-19 and is developing a non-infectious COVID-19 strain that the research community can utilize in research efforts.

Learn more about the Lai Lab


Jian Liu, Ph.D.

John & Deborah McNeill, Jr. Distinguished Professor
Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Researching the COVID-19 spike protein that creates infection in a host by binding to its cell receptors. Recent scientific reporting suggests heparin sulfate interacts with the COVID-19 spike protein, and the Liu group seeks to determine which specific heparin sulfate structure displays the highest affinity to COVID-19 spike protein. Heparin sulfate is also known to attenuate inflammation induced by a COVID-19 infection — a significant outcome in many infected patients that causes uncontrolled inflammation responses in the lung, leading to lung failure. Using heparin sulfate, Liu’s team will seek to inhibit a series of proinflammatory proteins released after COVID-19 infection to reduce symptoms in patients.

Learn more about the Jian Liu Lab


Kuo-Hsiung Lee, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor
Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Developing a series of novel antiviral agents from natural products for use in treatment of COVID-19. His work involves selecting potential anti-COVID-19 compounds from an in-house library of over 5,000 unique compounds from natural sources and chemical synthesis based on both virtual screening results and rational medicinal chemistry perspectives. He is then using enzyme-affinity experiments to evaluate lead compounds and modifying them to develop a series of novel antiviral agents.

Learn more about the Natural Products Research Lab


Rihe Liu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Investigating techniques to reduce the cytokine storm – an extreme immune response that frequently occurs in severe COVID-19 cases. Liu’s group is also analyzing several other targets on COVID-19, specifically the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression areas.

Learn more about the Liu Lab


Juliane Nguyen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics

Developing new formulations and biomaterials to create new therapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19.

Learn more about the Nguyen Lab


Ken Pearce, Ph.D.

Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery

“Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery Initiative (READDI #5)” — The goal of READDI is to develop antiviral drugs for epidemic and pandemic viruses. Developing these new drugs requires a multidisciplinary effort with expertise in virology, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry and viral pathogenesis.

Learn more about the Pearce Lab


Gauri Rao, Pharm.D., M.S.

Assistant Professor
Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics

Studying the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of novel antivirals for the treatment of COVID-19. This information is critical in the development of formulations with enhanced efficacy and minimal side effects.

Learn more about the Rao Lab


Alexander Tropsha, Ph.D.

Associate Dean, Pharmacoinformatics, K.H. Lee Distinguished Professor
Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Leading several computational research projects on possible targets and drug discovery for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He and his team have generated several potential inhibitors of the main protease of the virus that are awaiting experimental confirmation. The Tropsha team’s innovative modeling efforts hold promise in both collapsing the time-to-discovery window and using data science to identify existing approved medicines that would support recovery from a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Learn more about the Tropsha Lab


Tim Willson, Ph.D.

Professor, SGC Center for Chemical Biology

The SGC-UNC laboratory is working with UNC virologists to identify drugs that slow the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to multiply inside cells. We have identified kinase enzymes that are modified by a closely related coronavirus when it infects cells. Drugs that target these enzymes will be tested for anti-viral activity in human lung cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

Learn more about the SGC-UNC Lab