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RTI’s Forethought Research Collaboration Challenge Announces Winner

The winning team will receive $5 million in initial seed funding to accelerate the production of antiviral drugs

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, today announced a group of nine researchers representing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and RTI as the winner of the institute’s Forethought Research Collaboration Challenge. The team will receive $5 million in seed funding from RTI for their research proposal.

Led by Nat Moorman, Ph.D., an associate professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the group of researchers seeks to create a broad spectrum of antiviral drugs that would be effective against entire families of viruses that cause epidemics and pandemics. These new drugs would treat infected individuals between the time a virus emerges until vaccination development to prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed and help maintain economic stability.

The work is already underway as part the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI), a collaboration led by UNC-Chapel Hill that Moorman co-founded. 

Dr. Christy Shaffer and Dr. Peter Lange, chair and vice chair of the University Research Collaboration Committee (URCC), respectively, and RTI Board of Governors members, said in a joint statement: “On behalf of RTI’s Board of Governors, we would like to extend our congratulations to Dr. Moorman and his team. From the beginning, this challenge was meant to create new partnerships between our top-tier research institutions and stimulate investment and growth in the Research Triangle region. This proposal can achieve those aims and more, including having a potential global impact, which is why it stood out to the committee.”

“Support from the RTI Forethought Challenge will let READDI expand existing partnerships and forge new ones that leverage the cutting-edge capabilities of the Triangle to develop the drugs we need to be ready for future pandemics,” said Moorman.

Forethought, launched earlier this year, sought bold, visionary proposals that would address critical societal issues, specifically in the Research Triangle region.

URCC, formed by RTI’s Board of Governors to oversee the challenge, heard presentations from the finalists last week before making a final determination on the winner.

“I am truly excited to see how this group uses the RTI seed funding to bolster what could be a transformational project,” said Dr. Jacqueline M. Olich, Vice President of University Collaborations at RTI. “The quality and quantity of proposals we received during this challenge was a reminder of why the Research Triangle region has been a model of world-class research for more than 60 years. We want to sincerely thank all the teams that submitted applications.”

The challenge received 136 initial applications, with eight teams advancing to submit full proposals and five finalists advancing to give presentations to URCC.

Learn more about Forethought