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Preparing for Tomorrow’s Pandemics, Today
Dr. Timothy P. Sheahan
Assistant Professor in Epidemiology
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Coronaviruses (CoV) often jump from one host to another to cause new diseases. At least five novel CoV have emerged in the past 20 years. Currently, we are all experiencing the consequence of novel CoV emergence and the devastation to human public and economic health with the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic. What can we do to prepare for tomorrow’s pandemics today? The generation of robust in vitro and in vivo models of CoV disease are essential to accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs and vaccines. More specifically, if we can develop antiviral strategies that are effective against all the CoV that we know about today, it is likely that they will work against those that may emerge in the future.
See more from Dr. Sheahan here: https://www.americanscientist.org/blog/from-the-staff/progress-against-viruses-in-animal-reservoirs
Dr. Sheahan is an NIH funded virologist working at the host pathogen interface to develop new methods of viral control. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of New Hampshire in 1999, he moved to Boston to try to make a career in music but soon realized he enjoyed pipetting more than playing guitar. In 2003, he came to UNC Chapel Hill for graduate school joining the laboratory of Ralph Baric to study how the recently emerged SARS coronavirus had jumped from wild animals into humans. After a postdoc on hepatitis C virus with 2020 Nobel Laureate Dr. Charles M. Rice at the Rockefeller University, he became an Investigator at GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 working to develop host targeting small molecules as antivirals. In 2015, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He has recently been featured in both print (Time Magazine, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), STAT news, NBC News, GQ Magazine, etc.) and television (BBC1 News, WRAL, ABC11, CBS17, etc.) media. His current research is focused on developing antiviral therapies to treat emerging coronavirus as well as developing models to better understand chronic viral infections of the liver. Dr. Sheahan and colleagues, in collaboration with Gilead Sciences and Emory Institute of Drug Discovery, have accelerated the preclinical development of several broad-spectrum small molecule antiviral drugs one if which is now FDA approved to treat COVID-19, remdesivir, and the other, molnupiravir, is in phase 2/3 clinical trial. In additional to small molecule drugs, Sheahan and colleagues performed preclinical development on pegylated lambda interferon to treat COVID-19 for which the human clinical data thus far is very promising. As five new coronavirus have emerged in the past 20 years, it is likely that we see future emergence of novel coronavirus. Thus, the development of broadly acting therapies for coronavirus will remain of focus of Dr. Sheahan’s research for some time to come to help prepare for the next viral pandemic.