Fighting Emerging Diseases at UNC

Imagine a drug that could cure everything from Ebola to the common cold. Utilizing the expertise of the Baric Lab at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Gilead Sciences is making breakthroughs in developing drugs to fight some of the world’s deadliest viruses.

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June 28th, 2018

A model platform for an academic-corporate partnership, Gilead Sciences, Inc. and UNC are teaming up to save lives. The biopharmaceutical company sought the resources and talents of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Baric Lab in the development of treatments with the power to control outbreaks of disease.

Ralph Baric, head of the lab and professor of epidemiology, has pioneered rapid-response approaches for the study of emerging viruses and the development of therapeutics. The lab was a natural fit when it came time to test a treatment with promise to work against multiple coronaviruses, a family of viruses that primarily infect the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. The treatment is a broad-spectrum antiviral — it works against a large variety of viral pathogens — and is a potential key to pandemic preparedness.

The increasing interconnectedness of our world makes it easy for sick people in seemingly remote areas to spread emerging viral diseases throughout the globe. The Gilead broad-spectrum treatment that was tested and proven in the Baric Lab, now known as Remdesivir, has been deployed for use in the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not only does the drug have potential to save lives there, but all efficacy and safety results will inform treatments for other coronaviruses.

Imagine: One drug with the potential to treat MERS, SARS, Ebola, and even the common cold. At UNC, researchers are imagining, and enabling, just that.

Ralph Baric is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology within the UNC School of Medicine. He is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.