Initiative Launched to Discover, Develop Drugs for Future Viral Pandemics

Located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the organization hopes to raise $125 million to generate 5 new drugs with human safety and dosing data in 5 years to be ready for the next pandemic.

The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Eshleman Institute for Innovation have announced the launch of the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI), which will prepare drugs for clinical testing in the expectation of any future viral pandemics.

“The goals of the program are to project what potential viral pandemics might come down the line after we navigate [coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)],” said John Bamforth, PhD, director of Eshelman Institute for Innovation, in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “However, in that future we want to be ready to with a therapeutic at or close after the emergence of that novel virus.”

READDI is a non-profit drug research and development organization that is focusing on the viral families that cause the majority of epidemics and pandemics, targeting the cellular changes that are critical for infection by known viruses. Located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the organization hopes to raise $125 million to generate 5 new drugs with human safety and dosing data in 5 years to be ready for the next pandemic.

As for future anti-viral drug developments, Bamforth said that the antivirals will either be truly novel or will come from existing libraries of molecules owned by the Eshelman Institute for Innovations’ BioPharma partners and other partners. However, Bamforth added that the program will not have any patient outcomes during this current pandemic.

“The university scientists will work to discover novel targets against four families of potential viruses—coronavirus, flavivirus, alphavirus, and influenzas,” Bamforth said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “They will run screens to identify, potentially with BioPharma partners, to realize potential lead clinical targets. From there READDI will use clinical research organizations to help navigate the early clinical development of these therapeutics.”

READDI is modeled after the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, a proven model for non-profit drug research and development, according to a University of North Carolina press release. Projects in this program will adopt extreme open science methods, sharing drug discovery progress in real time.

Bamforth said that the university is currently in dialogue with several university partners and BioPharma companies.

“Our desire is to have a broad set of collaborators working in an ‘open science’ manner, sharing data, learning and ultimately offering new solutions for the greater good of humanity,” he said

According to Bamforth, this effort is still in the discovery phase, so clinical plans and patient populations have yet to be determined.


Jennings, Brittany. Open science drug discovery partnership, READDI, aims to invest $125 million to prevent future pandemics. UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Published April 8, 2020. Accessed April 10, 2020.

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