University-Industry Engagement Week

Emory U enters new partnership with Pfizer to develop COVID drugs

By David Schwartz
Published: March 21st, 2023

Emory University has entered into an agreement with Pfizer to develop new drugs and treatments designed to prevent severe illness from COVID-19.

Emory’s Schinazi Lab, led by researcher Raymond Schinazi, and the pharmaceutical giant will work together to develop potential antiviral compounds targeting COVID.

Pfizer is the developer of Paxlovid, one of two antiviral pills used to treat COVID, which continues to be effective against severe disease, even as new variants have emerged.

According to Schinazi, as the coronavirus continues to mutate, it’s essential to develop more treatment options. The next generation of antivirals, he said, are aimed at building on what has already been developed and reengineering existing drugs to improve their performance, reduce drug interactions, and prevent the rebound symptoms that some patients experience with

Paxlovid. “There is a need for newer, more effective drugs that can be added to our armamentarium,” he noted.

As part of the new partnership, the Emory lab will seek to develop new treatments that could be combined with Paxlovid to boost its effectiveness. At least 11 Emory scientists plus support staff will be involved in the research effort.

“The drugs we are developing should work therapeutically on recently infected persons and the very sick, but we also hope they have an impact on long COVID. That will need to be tested,” Schinazi added.

Emory declined to share the financial details of its partnership with Pfizer, which surpassed $100 billion in revenues last year. The company will provide funding to Schinazi’s lab and collaborate on research to advance the preclinical development of these compounds. Pfizer will have the option to exercise exclusive rights to the leading clinical candidates and be solely responsible for further development activities.

“COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a devastating effect on patients, communities, and economies throughout the world, and we believe it is vital to continue to invest in promising research that may help mitigate its impact,” said Charlotte Allerton, chief scientific officer for anti-infectives and head of medicine design for Pfizer. “We’re pleased to be working with Emory University and the Schinazi Laboratory with the shared goal to bring forth scientific breakthroughs for people in need.”

Added Emory President Gregory L. Fenves, “this agreement with Pfizer will put us on a path to potentially help serve COVID-19 patients like never before.”

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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