John Bamforth oversees the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Discovery Initiative, a non-profit drug research and development organization that is part of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation.
The mission: to find treatments for COVID-19 and to anticipate what treatments may be needed in future pandemics.
“The goal of READDI is to have five novel antivirals against three viral families through phase one testing, which is the safety testing that goes on in drug development, within five years,” he said.
To achieve this “stretch goal,” Bamforth and a team are working with a number of other universities and pharmaceutical companies to secure funding and find new treatments.
Bamforth credits READDI founders Nat Moorman and Mark Heise from the UNC School of Medicine, who work alongside Ralph Baric, who has joint appointments in the School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health, with making Carolina a leader in the study of emerging coronaviruses.
The three scientists have slightly different expertise in terms of knowledge of viral families, Bamforth said.
“As a combination, the three of them [are] pretty remarkable individuals, very driven to provide these sorts of solutions to the world. And they’re not only good on the therapeutics, which is exciting, but they’re also very good at building models for new diseases,” he said.
Bamforth joined the University in 2019 after almost 30 years with Eli Lilly and Company. He completed his bachelor of pharmacy degree at the University of Bath in Bath, England, and earned a doctorate at Aston University in Birmingham, England.
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