Harvard University has announced a $115 million grant from China Evergrande Group, a Fortune Global 500 real estate company based in Shenzhen, in support of a research partnership aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of 2019-nCoV (COVID-19).
Harvard will share the grant with the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease (GIRD) as part of a collaborative five-year research initiative to develop vaccines that prevent new 2019-nCoV infections and develop therapies to treat existing ones. The U.S. effort will be spearheaded by scientists at Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In China, the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease will work with Zhong Nanshan, a renowned pulmonologist and epidemiologist who is head of the Chinese 2019n-CoV Expert Taskforce and director-general of the China State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases.
While formal details of the collaboration are still being finalized, the overarching goal of the effort is to elucidate the basic biology of the virus and its behavior and inform disease detection and therapeutic design. In addition to developing vaccines and antiviral therapies that shorten the duration of the illness and mitigate symptoms, areas of research will include rapid, more accurate diagnostic tests, including point-of-care testing; and the body's immune response and host-pathogen interaction, including identification of biomarkers that can help monitor the infection course and disease progression and forecast the onset of critical illness and life-threatening complications among infected patients.
"We are extremely encouraged by the generous gesture from Evergrande to coordinate and support the collaboration and by the overwhelmingly positive response from our Harvard colleagues," said Zhong, who in 2003 identified and described the clinical course of infection of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus. "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."