Vanderbilt involved in another large pandemic development
Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt researchers made key findings that led to the development of a new antiviral pill for COVID-19 patients.

  • Pharmaceutical company Merck last week announced plans to seek authorization for the pill, saying it halved the risk of hospitalization or death in a clinical trial.

Why is this important: Vanderbilt University Medical Center has become a leading force in the pandemic – with the help of Dolly Parton.

  • The continued successes of the pandemic could spur more funding and large-scale projects for the city’s largest employer.

Details: Another watershed moment is the antiviral drug. It was developed in partnership with researchers at Emory University and UNC-Chapel Hill, with further development from Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics.

  • Investigators in Professor VUMC’s lab, Mark Denison, have found evidence that the antiviral, known as molnupiravir, may be effective against COVID.
  • Subsequent animal testing showed the drug to prevent severe lung damage in infected mice.

Between the lines: Denison told Axios that he and his team have been researching coronaviruses for decades.

  • His lab was investigating molnupiravir and remdesivir years before they became essential tools against the pandemic. Denison even had to explain and justify his research goal to skeptics.
  • “It’s not science fiction. You don’t walk into a lab and come out in 24 hours with a response,” Denison said.
  • Denison’s lab continues to examine molnupiravir, remdesivir, and new drugs while investigating the effectiveness of different drug combinations.

The context: VUMC has been involved on multiple fronts in the battle against COVID-19.

What they say : “From conducting vaccine trials, treating COVID patients, advising on health policy and now helping to develop a COVID pill, VUMC has played a vital role throughout the pandemic,” said the Mayor John Cooper in a statement to Axios. “Nashville is fortunate to have VUMC in our community.”

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