Brightly colored illustration of a brain and a light bulb.

The results are in: RTI International’s Board of Governors, under the auspices of the RTI University Research Collaboration Committee (URCC), chose a Forethought: The RTI $5M+ Research Collaboration Challenge winner. The winning team is READDI, the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI). This coalition of scientists representing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and RTI will receive $5 million in seed funding to accelerate the development of antiviral drugs that would be effective against entire families of viruses that cause epidemics and pandemics. 

We are excited to support READDI and its goal of preventing and fighting future pandemics. However, it was not the only worthy idea or regional collaboration to emerge from Forethought. The competition catalyzed many collaborations. For example, in the final stage of the challenge, four other groups presented bold visions for scientific endeavors that leverage the scientific talent of the Research Triangle region. Like the winning team, the other finalists embody the qualities Forethought was designed to foster.

We believe these teams and their plans contain the seeds of future efforts that deserve recognition and the support of our region. All four proposals address critical issues facing the world – issues that North Carolina-based researchers can help solve. With that in mind, meet the other four remarkable Forethought final teams:

North Carolina Health Equity Action Laboratory (NC Heal)

This network of Duke, NCCU, UNC, and RTI scientists tackles our current siloed approach to health equity research and community engagement. They propose a multimodal, multilevel platform to accelerate the elimination of health inequities in North Carolina. By connecting community organizations and local governments to information systems, they would promote targeted health interventions across the state.

NC-VVIRAL: An Academic-Industrial Partnership in the Research Triangle to Forge the Next-Generation Biomanufacturing of Gene Therapy Products

This coalition plans to harness North Carolina’s momentum around gene therapy and biomanufacturing. One standout aspect of the plan is its emphasis on training the biomanufacturing workforce. Experts from Duke, NCCU, NC A&T, UNC, and NCSU are involved, and the workforce training aspect would be housed at Alamance Community College.

Triangle Exposomics Hub

Merging the study of environmental exposures with data science and predictive analytics, this group brings together UNC, NCCU, and RTI scientists. This team aligns with emerging Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences strategies.

Climate Action Research, Development, and Deployment (CARDD) Lab

This initiative builds upon the new RTI Center for Climate Solutions. The plan involves partners from Duke, NCCU, NCSU, NC A&T, UNC, and the U.S. Department of Energy.  URCC reviewers see great potential for these institutions and others to work with RTI on this critical issue.

Although these four finalists did not emerge with the Forethought grant, we know their stories are far from over. We are proud that the Forethought process helped so many inspired scientists connect and collaborate.