Pakistan to join world antiviral research initiative to study pandemics

Pakistan will collaborate with United States, Brazil, Senegal, South Africa and Taiwan to develop the United World for Antiviral Research Network (UWARN) — a global research initiative into infectious diseases and pandemics.

University of Washington has been awarded $8.75 million grant spread over five years and other contributors, including the Aga Khan University (AKU), by the US National Institutes of Health’s Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID) – to identify potential pandemic viruses, develop the urgently needed diagnostic tools and drugs that work against a range of pathogens, and expand understanding of the body’s immune responses to viruses.

Several AKU faculty will be involved in the project. Najeeha Talat Iqbal, Dr Farah Qamar, Dr Ali Faisal, Professor Erum Khan will be part of the team of researchers from Pakistan.

UWARN researchers will be looking to advance innovative approaches to laboratory diagnosis, including identifying reagents for antibody tests that detect antibodies in the blood in order to diagnose an active or previous infection.

Another approach would be through ‘designed proteins’ that release light when antibodies are present in the blood, using technology developed by UW Medicine Institute for Protein Design.

The group will also work to improve understanding of how viruses manipulate the human immune system, facilitating development of better blood biomarkers to predict the severity of diseases as well as drugs that could improve outcomes for patients with viral infections.