Emory University has received numerous research awards and grants this year, including an award from the Lupus Research Alliance and grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The University has also engaged in research for treatments and vaccines against COVID-19. The Wheel has provided summaries of  significant developments from the past few months.  

Whitehead Biomedical Research Building. Photo by Jason Oh.

Emory continues to receive grants through NIH

Emory has received $100 million in grants from NIH during the 2021 fiscal year so far.

The NIH is contributing significantly to the University’s research into Alzheimer’s disease, an area Emory has increased focus on over the past few years. In October 2019, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the NIH, authorized a $73 million grant split between Emory and Purdue University (Ind.) to establish Alzheimer’s research centers. 

The NIA granted Emory $14 million this year, approximately half of which will be used to study biomarkers that could predict future development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Several NIH grants also fund research into viral diseases, such as Zika, influenza and HIV, and the body’s immune response against them.

Emory will receive $11 million over a five-year period from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the NIH, to investigate a form of antibiotic resistance called heteroresistance. Heteroresistance is when cells that are antibiotic resistant replicate in the presence of an antibiotic. Director of the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center David Weiss will be the principal investigator.  

Antiviral drug discovered at Emory to be licensed in India 

Molnupiravir, an orally administrable antiviral drug discovered by Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), will be licensed for use in India. The pharmaceutical company Merck will facilitate, manufacture and distribute the drug. 

Merck is conducting Phase 3 trials of the drug in the U.S. Phase 2 trials showed that the drug eliminated the SARS-COV-2 virus in symptomatic non-hospitalized patients within five days. 

The drug eliminates viruses by introducing errors during viral replication and can be used preventatively or to treat patients with mild symptoms, although effectiveness in hospitalized patients is limited. 

Professor wins award in support of Lupus research

Director of the Division of Rheumatology at the Emory Vaccine Center Ignacio Sanz received a $1 million Distinguished Innovator Award from the Lupus Research Alliance in support of research into lupus mechanisms. 

Lupus is a disease where the B cells produced by the body’s immune system to attack pathogens instead attack body cells. Sanz aims to study the regulatory pathways that lead to the production of these B cells and the difference in mechanisms across ethnic groups to enable the development of new therapeutic approaches. 

Updates on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy 

The university will require that all students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall 2021 semester. (Creative Commons/ SELF Magazine).

A group of scientists, including researchers conducting the Moderna vaccine clinical trial at Emory, published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 6, confirming that antibodies produced by the body in response to the Moderna’s mRNA-vaccine persist for at least six months after receiving the second dose. These scientists will continue monitoring antibody levels in patients to determine when a booster dose should be administered. 

Emory scientists also published experiment results that showed that antibodies produced in individuals who received the Moderna vaccine effectively neutralized the United Kingdom strain of the SARS-COV-2 virus.