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The Collaboratory funded 85 projects across 14 UNC System schools, including six at the UNC School of Medicine.

The N.C. Policy Collaboratory based at UNC-Chapel Hill will distribute $29 million toward 85 research projects focused on treatment, community testing and prevention of COVID-19. These research projects are intended to provide new data and information to North Carolina lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s pandemic response. The Collaboratory will be required to provide an update to the North Carolina General Assembly in September about the status of its research projects, which will be occurring across 14 UNC System campuses.

“Each one of these 85 projects will have a direct impact on improving the health and safety of North Carolinians,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our state as we face this pandemic. We are looking forward to working with our fellow System schools to find solutions and strategies for fighting COVID-19.”

Highlights from the awarded projects include:

$6 million in COVID-19 funding to the UNC System’s six historically minority-serving institutions – Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, N.C. A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC Pembroke and Winston-Salem State University. Each institution will participate in a variety of COVID-19 activities, including research of antibodies, community testing and other related activities that support minority and rural populations.

$1.5 million for Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery Initiative (READDI). The goal of READDI is to develop antiviral drugs for epidemic and pandemic viruses. In the current environment, READDI is focused exclusively on identifying and developing antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19. Developing these new drugs requires a multidisciplinary effort with expertise in virology, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, and viral pathogenesis.

$1.8 million for the Institute of Marine Sciences to measure and track COVID-19 pathogens in wastewater across North Carolina. The objective of this research would be to determine the presence and persistence of COVID-like viruses in infrastructure and environmental systems.

A full list of projects can be found on the Collaboratory website.

The funding comes from a $1.5 billion coronavirus relief package approved by state legislators and signed by Governor Roy Cooper. The bill includes $85 million for five North Carolina universities to study and fight the virus.

“The Collaboratory has worked diligently to solicit and assemble a diverse set of strategic research projects from across the UNC System,” said Jeffrey Warren, research director of the North Carolina Collaboratory. “The 85 projects chosen are intended to provide critical data to our state over a short timeframe to address both the economic and public health components of this pandemic within North Carolina and make a positive impact fighting COVID-19 in our state.”

UNC-Chapel Hill has been on the forefront of coronavirus research, named the highest-rated university in the United States for coronavirus research by Microsoft Academic. The nation’s coronavirus task force recently announced that remdesivir, which the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health helped develop, is effective at treating coronavirus and will be a standard of care for patients fighting COVID-19. Ralph Baric, the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology, led testing on remdesivir and has studied coronaviruses for more than 30 years. He has pioneered rapid-response approaches for the study of emerging viruses and the development of therapeutics.

The North Carolina General Assembly established the N.C. Policy Collaboratory in 2016 for the purpose of facilitating the dissemination of the policy and research expertise of the University of North Carolina System for practical use by State and local government. The Collaboratory facilitates and funds research projects across the state. The Collaboratory is supporting COVID-19 research projects that are intended to provide new data and information to State lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s response.