USU lands $2.5 million grant to study coronavirus

LOGAN – The research started weeks ago but Thursday Utah State University officially accepted a $2.5 million grant to battle the novel coronavirus.

Lead investigator, USU Research Associate Professor Bart Tarbet, said this is work USU’s Institute for Antiviral Research has done for years, working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We are part of a collaborative antiviral testing group in the United States that works closely with the NIH,” Dr. Tarbet explained. “So, we’ve been involved in these kind of activities — the antiviral testing, setting up animal models — this is what we’ve done for a long time.”

Dr. Tarbet said work has been underway at Utah State University since February, testing antiviral compounds and licensed drugs for their effectiveness against the coronavirus. Tarbet is working in collaboration with Dr. Brett Hurst, both are faculty members in Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences.

Dr. Hurst said when the the first coronavirus news came from China, he didn’t expect this is what it would become.

“We were monitoring this disease from the beginning with the reports of the pneumonia in China, and the people that were getting sick, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be this big.”

Tarbet said NIH requested proposals about six weeks ago.

“We responded because this is really what we do. This is our expertise,” he said. “We proposed that we could develop animal models that we could then use for evaluation of experimental drugs and vaccines.”

The scientists will investigate how the virus affects organs and tissues causing disease — a critical step in developing treatments and vaccines — and how the virus responds to various treatments.

Video courtesy of Utah State University.

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