LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) — Scripps Research will lead a new pandemic preparedness center.
The multidisciplinary center will focus on the development of antiviral drugs to combat coronaviruses and other viruses with pandemic potential.
"We are going to build new medicines to make sure that we get out of this pandemic and prepare for the next one," said Dr. Sumit Chanda, a professor of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research.
Dr. Chanda said the next global pandemic is a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
"For those of us who study viruses, the fact that a coronavirus caused a pandemic was no surprise," Dr. Chanda said.
He said there are two main tools for fighting a pandemic -- vaccines and antiviral drugs.
The center will focus on the treatment end.
"These are going to be drugs that you take after you get infected. What can potentially turn into a deadly disease can be mitigating and blocked off as just a cold," Dr. Chanda said.
The FDA has already approved antiviral drugs like Remdesivir and Paxlovid that can help reduce COVID hospitalizations.
But Dr. Chanda said the drugs they're working to develop will target multiple aspects of the virus to better contain it. He compares it to treating HIV.
"As we know, coronaviruses can mutate, and they can escape vaccines. [It's] likely, they can escape one drug. If you throw four drugs at it, it's much harder for the drug to escape," Dr. Chanda said. "Essentially, you've cornered the virus."
Dr. Chanda said seeing the toll COVID-19 has taken on millions of Americans was a wake-up call to be more proactive instead of reactive.
"Everyone realized pretty quickly that we just weren't ready for an event like this [pandemic] and I think everyone can agree that a million Americans dead is just not acceptable," Dr. Chanda said.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) awarded the center $67 million to be given over three years.
It will be one of nine NIAID-sponsored Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern.
The AViDD Centers program is one of the U.S. government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.