The University of Minnesota (U of M) is set to establish a centre for developing antiviral drugs for future viral pandemics, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus, after it received the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) award of $66m.

The Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center is part of a network of nine national centres set up by NIAID to tackle Covid-19-caused public health emergency. 

Initial duration of the project is three years and is expected to be expanded to five years with further funding of over $20m each year.

University of Minnesota Medical School microbiology associate professor Ryan Langlois said: “I am excited to help contribute to the development of new antiviral drugs through the Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery Center. 

“New and innovative ways to target viruses will be essential in helping to mitigate, and maybe even prevent, the next pandemic.”

Midwest AViDD Center merges collaborative researchers from the university and 16 other institutions in the US.

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The centre is located in the University of Minnesota Institute on Infectious Diseases and is a crucial part of a larger effort to bring capabilities from various disciplines together.

This helps discovery of efficient responses to pandemics, infections and antimicrobial resistance by leveraging basic, translational and clinical research.

University of Minnesota Medical School dean and clinical affairs vice-president Jakub Tolar said: “We are pleased and proud of the hard work represented by this significant investment from the NIH in our collaborative faculty and their innovative efforts in tackling viral threats of pandemic potential. 

“In early 2020, our institution’s faculty rallied to respond to SARS-CoV-2, and this award recognises their innovative efforts.”