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Comprehensive antiviral landscape assessment guides Research … – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


November 20, 2023

As fatalities spiked following the emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, drug developers around the world dove into the scientific record.  

Questions arose like: Which academic labs terminated drug discovery programs after the first SARS outbreak in 2003? Which companies abandoned drug development work after the 2012 MERS outbreak? 

Following years of neglect, the world was once again thrown into pandemic-response panic. 

The Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI,) exists to disrupt the panic-neglect cycle once-and-for-all by creating medications that will be ready to slow viral disease, hospitalization and death before the next outbreak.  

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health was award a $65 million grant from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), establishing an Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center through READDI, to develop oral antivirals that can combat pandemic-level viruses like COVID-19. 

To that end, one of READDI’s foundational steps was to create a landscape assessment of all antiviral drug development work — both active and abandoned — targeting the virus families of highest pandemic risk. 

This first-of-its-kind achievement, accomplished through a collaboration with SciVida — a life sciences management consulting firm headquartered in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park — puts READDI at the forefront of antiviral therapeutic development for pandemic preparedness, says READDI CEO Jimmy Rosen. 

“A landscape assessment is an essential early step. Our goal is creating two broad-spectrum small molecule antivirals per high-risk virus family,” Rosen says. “Surveying the existing landscape of antiviral work informs and accelerates our ability to reach that goal.” 

‘Great team, remarkable cause’ 

To execute the landscape assessment, READDI found the ideal partner in SciVida, a purpose-driven company that donates five percent of its annual profits to patient-focused charities.  

When leadership from the two companies first met, the COVID-19 crisis loomed large. SciVida co-founder and Managing Partner Kevin Barnett offered to develop the landscape assessment database pro bono and as soon as possible. 

“Our purpose as an organization is to help bring science to life so patients get access to lifesaving therapies and our world is a healthier place,” says Barnett. “The pandemic clearly highlighted a need for READDI and its mission. We were completely on board. I said, ‘Great team, remarkable cause — we’d love to help.’” 

Rosen and READDI co-founder and scientific adviser Dr. Nat Moorman worked with Barnett and team to determine the scope of the database. Since READDI develops antivirals that work broadly against entire virus families, the company wanted a database that focused on the highest-risk virus families: alphaviruses, arenaviruses, bunyaviruses, coronaviruses, filoviruses, flaviviruses and paramyxoviruses. 

The database needed to be comprehensive — an assessment of small molecule antiviral development programs led by biopharmaceutical stakeholders, plus discovery work done in academia. And since viral outbreaks don’t respect international borders, the database should include research and development (R&D) done around the world. 

 It was a daunting challenge. The data landscape for antiviral drug development is vast.

“None of this information existed neatly in one place, so we took a boil-the-ocean approach,” Barnett says. 

The SciVida team drew from a number of proprietary databases, including those focused on commercial pipeline intelligence, as well as others focused on early-stage academic research and development.  

They scoured PubMed’s more than 36 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals and online publications. And they conducted structured internet research to pinpoint the most relevant universities and government-funded labs conducting R&D on the prioritized virus families.   

Upon completion, the data was entered into a user-friendly database. 

Framework for action

The finished product, “Small Molecule Antiviral Database,” includes many data points: the name of each antiviral compound, potential indications, pharmacological class and mechanism of action and current stage of development across the United States, Europe, Japan and China. 

Importantly, the database also includes abandoned assets from the last 10 years. Much of the detailed data is proprietary, but even the summary findings are telling.  

For instance, says Rosen, “We are using the database to identify which virus families are being completely neglected. That’s one of the first things you see when you pull it up. That’s a finding we’ll share with everybody.” 

On the flip side, the assessment reveals how much effort has gone toward developing therapeutics targeting SARS-CoV-2, some interesting, much of low value. 

“If you’re not in the panic stage, you can be more methodical and efficient in your research,” Rosen says. 

“It’s unclear from this database if these compounds have been tested for broad-spectrum activity,” Moorman says. “If we test the compounds in this database against a range of viruses in each target family, that could provide a significant head start in preparing for the next pandemic.” 

READDI is currently advancing more than 20 compounds showing broad-spectrum effectiveness against five high-risk viral families. 

“Mapping the pipeline for antivirals against high-risk viral families is essential for improving pandemic preparedness,” says Charlotte Baker, deputy head of the London-based International Pandemic Preparedness Secretariat.

The IPPS leads the 100 Days Mission, a plan endorsed by the G7 and G20 countries to make diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines available within 100 days of a pandemic outbreak. A core implementation partner in the 100 Days Mission, READDI is helping develop a Therapeutics Roadmap to guide next steps. 

“[READDI’s landscape assessment] helps to target efforts, avoid duplication and get us in a place where prototype therapeutics libraries are a realistic proposition,” Baker says. “It also provides the space for learning about which products are being taken forward and which aren’t.”

“Partnership is key to progress in this field, and it’s great to be working with READDI in the development of the 100 Days Mission Therapeutics Roadmap, taking advantage of the team’s insights, alongside other key partners, to develop a framework for action.” 

SciVida’s Barnett agrees.  

“To have READDI as a leader collaborating with key stakeholders around the world to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic hits — and it will, even if we don’t know when — is incredibly important for society, for our country, for people around the globe,” says Barnett. “We were delighted to have a chance to support READDI.”


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.



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Elodie Dumas

Bonjour, je suis Elodie Dumas, une rédactrice d'articles en ligne qui dévoile le monde à travers ses mots. Ma formation à l'École Centrale de Nantes a façonné ma plume et éveillé ma passion pour l'écriture. Je parcours la toile avec des récits internationaux, explorant la culture, la société, et le monde du crime. Passionnée de sport et de voyages, j'explore aussi les coins les plus reculés. Mon engagement envers la transparence guide chacun de mes articles, apportant une authentique lumière à chaque sujet. Rejoignez-moi dans cette aventure où les mots peignent des images vives de cultures lointaines, de mystères criminels et d'horizons lointains.

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