Rachel Woodul is a PhD student in the Department of Geography within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences and a research assistant at the Carolina Population Center. She uses geographic information systems to model infectious disease spread, with a specific focus on epidemics and pandemics.
For decades, scientists warned of the potential for a global coronavirus outbreak. But when SARS-CoV-2 emerged, no therapeutics, drugs, or vaccines were readily available. The Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI) — founded by researchers at UNC and the Structural Genomics Consortium — is not only finding solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also drugs and therapeutics for future viral outbreaks.
As one of the first research facilities in the U.S. to receive a COVID-19 sample and begin testing for potential therapies, UNC’s response to the threat of the coronavirus was immediate and remains unyielding. While some of our researchers have been studying coronaviruses for years, many others have pivoted the focus of their research, refitted their labs, and are working collaboratively to better execute a holistic response to the pandemic.
While the novel coronavirus has affected us all, it has drastically changed the lives of specific groups of people, from rural populations to long-term care residents to communities of color. Startling statistics among these groups have pushed UNC researchers from a variety of disciplines into action.
While COVID-19 has shaken the world, it has also pushed society to be more innovative and creative — two attributes that have been essential to the success of researchers at UNC. Carolina students, faculty, and staff are engaged in an abundance of projects, making UNC the most cited university in the nation for coronavirus research.
After Myron Cohen watched the first patient at UNC Hospitals die from AIDS in 1982, he knew it was a disease to be reckoned with. He spent the next 40 years helping to recruit the most promising infectious disease experts from across the nation to build a program that’s become a leader in HIV. Today, UNC excels in understanding all aspects of HIV, from prevention to a potential cure — expertise that is now being used to tackle COVID-19.