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Friday, March 5th, 2021

Harvard scientists work with Chinese researchers to develop coronavirus treatment

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Harvard University scientists will work with researchers from China to develop coronavirus therapies and treatments designed to prevent new infections and alleviate existing ones.

The effort will be led by Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley, working with colleagues from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Harvard Medical School will serve as the hub that brings together scientists, translational investigators, and clinical researchers.

The Chinese efforts will be led by Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health and Zhong Nanshan, a pulmonologist and epidemiologist who is the head of the Chinese 2019n-CoV Expert Taskforce.

Harvard University and Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health will share $115 million in research funding over five years. The funding is provided by China Evergrande Group, a company based in China.

“We are confident that the collaboration of Harvard and Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health will contribute valuable discoveries to this worldwide effort,” Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said. “We are grateful for Evergrande’s leadership and generosity in facilitating this collaboration and for all the scientists and clinicians rising to the call of action in combating this emerging threat to global well-being.”

The goal of the effort is to elucidate the biology of the virus and its behavior and to inform disease detection and therapeutic design. Specifically, the investigation will include rapid, more accurate diagnostic tests, including point-of-care testing; understanding the body’s immune response and host-pathogen interaction; vaccines to prevent infection; antiviral therapies that shorten the duration of the illness and mitigate symptoms; and treatments for those with severe disease.

“With the extraordinary scale and depth of relevant clinical and scientific capabilities in our community, Harvard Medical School is uniquely positioned to convene experts in virology, infectious disease, structural biology, pathology, vaccine development, epidemiology, and public health to confront this rapidly evolving crisis,” Daley said. “Harnessing our science to tackle global health challenges is at the very heart of our mission as an institution dedicated to improving human health and well-being worldwide.”

Zhong is encouraged by the support of Evergrande and the opportunity to work with Harvard scientists.

“We look forward to leveraging each of our respective strengths to address the immediate and longer-term challenges and a fruitful collaboration to advance the global well-being of all people,” Zhong added.

China Evergrande Group Chair Hui Ka Yan praised the collaborators.

“Evergrande is honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the fight against this global public health threat,” Hui Ka Yan said. “We thank all the scientists who responded so swiftly and enthusiastically from the Harvard community and are deeply moved by Harvard and Dr. Zhong’s team’s dedication and commitment to this humanitarian cause. We have the utmost confidence in this global collaborative team to reach impactful discoveries against the outbreak soon.”