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First antiviral pill for COVID-19 developed through Emory University’s approach to bringing solutions to market

October 07, 2021

The news that a drug has been developed that appears to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, understandably garnered international attention. While most of the coverage centered on Merck, dig a bit deeper and one learns that Emory University researchers developed molnupiravir which Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have licensed. For the TBED community, there is another interesting angle to the story if one goes even further: this work was a result of a non-profit that Emory had set up, Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), to help bridge the gap between scientific discovery to helping patients.

Jonathan S. Lewin, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs and executive director of Woodruff Health Sciences Center, said in a press release that the news underscores the important role of academic medical research. DRIVE, a non-profit LLC wholly owned by Emory, repurposed a broad-spectrum antiviral drug it had been developing for infectious diseases when the pandemic began. DRIVE’s CEO and co-founder, George Painter, PhD, had invested nearly five years of research with funding from the National Institutes of Health into the antiviral compound EIDD-2801 (now called molnupiravir) for influenza and realized it could likely help in treating COVID-19 patients, too.

DRIVE effectively operates like an early-stage biotechnology company and focuses on the discovery and development of antiviral drugs for emerging infections, pandemic threats and biodefense. DRIVE was able to leverage Emory’s investment in building a world-class facility for developing drugs for viral diseases of global concern in its development of molnupiravir. More information from Emory regarding the drug’s development and DRIVE’s involvement is available here.

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are applying for emergency use authorization to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and if authorized, it could be the first antiviral pill for COVID-19.

tbed, biotechnology