November 30, 2020

Georgia Fights COVID-19

A quick rundown of impressive activities in our state's university labs and startups

In ways imaginative and pragmatic, Georgia’s university scientists and startup companies have gotten into the fight against COVID-19.

Here are some examples of how GRA-backed researchers and entrepreneurs in our state are applying expertise and ingenuity against the coronavirus.

  • January 2021: A drug developed at Emory University to treat the COVID-19 disease is in Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical testing in humans. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are working to develop the drug, molnupiravir (formerly known as EIDD-2801, for "Emory Institute of Drug Development"). Unlike remdesivir, the only other approved medication to treat COVID-19, molnupiravir is an oral drug.
  • A national study of how long people stay immune from the coronavirus after infection is being led by GRA Eminent Scholar Ted Ross at the University of Georgia. The study will follow 3,000 participants, and at least half of the pool is from minority groups, who are disproportionately affected by the virus. More >
  • The FDA-approved vaccine developed by Moderna to protect against COVID-19 was tested on humans at Emory University's Hope Clinic. As part of the Emory Vaccine Center, led by GRA Eminent Scholar Rafi Ahmed, the Hope Clinic is now evaluating the safety and effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine deveoped by Novavax.
  • Georgia State scientists in the lab of GRA Eminent Scholar Julia Hilliard produced and analyzed test kits for the coronavirus. In spring 2020, the lab was one of Georgia's largest testing operations for the virus. More > 
  • Axion Biosystems, a startup launched out of Georgia Tech, is offering its Maestro technology to researchers and drug developers working on COVID-19. The Maestro platform connects human cells in a petri dish to an electrical current – all to evaluate many possible drug compounds at once.
  • GRA Eminent Scholar Chris Basler of Georgia State has applied for funding to test drug compounds on the virus that causes COVID-19. The compounds have already been shown to have “antiviral activity” against the Ebola virus. More >
  • And Georgia State's Institute of Biomedical Sciences developed procedures to "deactivate" the SARS-Cov-2 virus so that infected cells could be safely studied. This guidance is crucial to broadening exploration into COVID-19. More >
  • GRA Eminent Scholar Ted Ross at the University of Georgia is leading a research team to develop a novel vaccine against COVID-19. Already, the vaccine is being tested in animal models. More >
  • January 2021: The National Institues of Health awarded a grant to GRA-backed GeoVax to continue developing a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. More >
  • The startup Micro B-plex is collaborating with Emory and others to develop novel diagnostic tests for COVID-19. The tests would help determine acute infections and evaluate immune response. The team is also working with partners to identify neutralizing antibodies from patient blood samples.
  • J.D. Li, a GRA Eminent Scholar at Georgia State, is developing a treatment strategy to control overactive inflammation in COVID-19, one of the leading causes of death from the disease. His goal is to identify an existing anti-inflammatory drug that can be paired with antiviral therapeutics developed by colleagues in GSU's Institute of Biomedical Science, which Li leads. More >
  • A COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by GRA Distinguished Investigator Biao He and UGA colleagues promoted an immune response in earlier tests against the MERS coronavirus. Based on a platform containing modified strains of the virus that causes kennel cough in dogs, the vaccine remains in development. More >
  • Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) scientists are working with a pharma company in Senegal to evaluate an herbal treatment for COVID-19. The treatment is based on patented MSM products that have already shown anti-viral properties against HIV, Ebola, influenza and MDR bacteria. More >​
  • ​A four-sided box made of clear polycarbonate is now being used to safeguard healthcare workers from virus particles when intubating patients. Georgia Tech engineers developed the box working in partnership with GRA Eminent Scholar Susan Margulies. More >
  • The monoclonal antibodies Jin-Xiong She is developing into cancer cell line therapies may hold promise for a new therapy to treat Covid-19. The Augusta University Eminent Scholar is re-purposing his work to generate “anti-spike antibodies” against COVID-19 with the aim of clinical testing this year. More >
  • Handwashing is critical to minimizing the spread of coronavirus, but so many people don’t do it properly. GRA Distinguished Investigator Bill Wuest of Emory University, who researches disinfectants, took to the news media to explain just how washing can destroy the virus. More >

Beyond GRA-supported scientists:

  • Augusta University developed and validated a novel, accurate coronavirus test that can tell patients if they’re infected within about two hours. Researchers have submitted the test to the FDA for review. More >
  • Georgia Tech and Emory researcher Wilbur Lam is leading a national effort to identify the most promising COVID-19 tests using microchip-enabled devices. A trio of Atlanta institutions are involved in the effort — funded by nearly $50 million in NIH grants — and they’re vetting thousands of technologies to choose the few that have the greatest potential. More >
  • Georgia Tech researchers have made and delivered 10,000 face shields to protect healthcare workers. They're also developing prototypes for new kinds of face masks, disinfecting wipes and testing swabs. More >
  • Scientists at the at the University of Georgia have opened a new path to developing COVID-19 drugs. They showed that a set of small molecules can block the activity of protein inside SARS-CoV-2. The protein, PLpro, is known to be essential in the replication of the virus.
  • Mercer University donated hundreds of N95 masks to healthcare workers and made several ventilators available for use. Mercer medical students volunteered in the state’s Southeast Regional Health District, where they collected viral specimens at a drive-thru testing site and notified patients of results. More >
  • Georgia Tech’s researchers created prototypes for disinfection chambers and a new low-cost, portable emergency ventilator. The chambers use different sources of ultraviolet light to evaluate PPE disinfection. The new ventilator uses electronic sensors and computer control — and it's designed to be produced for less than $300.
  • The lab of Dr. Ravindra Kolhe at Augusta University processes hundreds of COVID-19 tests per day.
  • The lab of Georgia State biologist Mukesh Kumar has screened several FDA-approved medications for potential use against SARS-CoV-2. They recently discovered that auranofin, a drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis, can inhibit the virus. As of mid-April, the team was planning testing in animal models.
  • Emory University researchers launched a national study that will use home tests to estimate the current number of COVID-19 infections and people with antibody response nationally. Their work is funded with a $6.6 million grant from NIH. More >
  • Students at Emory and Georgia Tech put their heads together to develop and pitch potential solutions to COVID-19 problems in a May 2020 hackathon. The roster of 105 teams was narrowed to three finalists, each of which won a $10,000 cash prize and enrollment in the CREATE-X Startup Launch program. More >
  • Georgia Tech researchers created a digital tool to help Piedmont Hospital healthcare professionals decide whether a patient should be re-tested for COVID-19. The tool is built into a patient’s electronic medical record and uses an algorithm to recommend re-testing or other action. More >
  • Emory University created an online "Coronavirus Checker" that allows site visitors to screen themselves for symptoms of the virus. Check your symptoms >
  • ​If you're making your own protective face mask, experts at Georgia Tech have really helpful advice to offer. See their advice >