Vanderbilt is involved in another major pandemic development

Vanderbilt is involved in another major pandemic development

Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt researchers made important discoveries that drove the development of a new antiviral pill for COVID-19 patients.

  • Pharmaceutical company Merck announced plans last week to apply for approval of the pill as it halves the risk of hospitalization or death during a clinical trial.

Why it matters: Vanderbilt University Medical Center emerged as a leading force in the pandemic – with a little help by Dolly Parton.

  • Sustained pandemic successes could stimulate the city’s largest employer more funds and high-profile projects.

Details: The antiviral drug is another turning point. It was developed in collaboration with researchers from Emory University and UNC-Chapel Hill, with subsequent development by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics.

  • Investigators at VUMC Professor Mark Denison’s laboratory found evidence that the antiviral agent known as molnupiravir might be effective against COVID.
  • Subsequent animal studies showed that the drug prevented severe lung damage in infected mice.

Between the lines: Denison told Axios that he and his team had spent decades researching coronaviruses.

  • His lab studied molnupiravir and remdesivir years before they became crucial tools against the pandemic. Denison had to explain and justify his research focus even to skeptics.
  • “It’s not science fiction. You don’t go to a lab and come back with an answer in 24 hours,” Denison said.
  • Denison’s lab continues to study molnupiravir, remdesivir, and new drugs, while also researching the effectiveness of various drug combinations.

Context: VUMC has been involved on several fronts in the fight against COVID-19.

What you say: “VUMC has played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic by conducting vaccine studies, treating COVID patients, advising on health policy and now assisting in the development of a COVID pill,” Mayor John Cooper said in a statement to Axios. “Nashville is fortunate to have VUMC in our community.”

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