The team is currently conducting research on COVID-19 and other viral diseases, as well as possible treatments. Moorman said their work deals with identifying cellular factors within viral diseases in advance in order to develop treatments.
“When you have a new virus show up, you don't know ahead of time what its viral proteins are going to look like,” Moorman said. “But what you can know ahead of time is how it's going to change the cell.”
Moorman said when a virus infects a cell, it hijacks that cell using pieces of the cell and cellular bridge.
“So imagine when a virus shows up, it's going to change the cell a lot like its closest neighbor changes the cell,” Moorman said.
Bamforth said READDI is being supported across multiple schools at UNC, with each one playing a specific role in tackling the issue of viral disease.
“The school of public health and the school of medicine are working hand in glove to find the indicators of how these viruses are attacking cells,” Bamforth said. “The role the school of pharmacy is playing is, in many ways, it's helping to find the drug elements of the solution to what we find from a science perspective around the viral impact.”
Baric said his initiative practices open science, which is the practice of sharing results freely in order to be used and collaborated on worldwide without limiting them as intellectual property.
Baric said that the team is not doing this work to make a profit.
“We're doing it so that there are drugs and ultimately vaccines on a shelf that can be in the future, or at least as the starting material for things that could rapidly get to market,” Baric said.
This open science approach to research is not foreign to UNC. Heise said labs at UNC constantly collaborate with each other across schools and subject areas.
“Being able to expand this out to a much larger scale, where it spans other institutions and other industry partners, just seemed like the logical next step for us,” Heise said.
As READDI continues work on viral disease treatment, Baric said he hopes this kind of collaboration will inspire other groups to follow suit so the world will be better prepared for future pandemics.
“To me, it's all about taking all the great ideas that all these different scientists have here at UNC and merging them together,” Moorman said. “I think this really just sort of leverages the innovation of many different groups into a single thing that's greater than apart.”