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Preparing for tomorrow’s pandemics today
January 8, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Tim Sheahan, PhD, is a virologist working at the host-pathogen interface to develop new methods of viral control. After earning a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of New Hampshire in 1999, he moved to Boston to try to make a career in music but soon realized he enjoyed pipetting more than playing guitar. In 2003, Sheahan came to UNC Chapel Hill for graduate school and joined Ralph Baric’s laboratory to study how the recently emerged SARS coronavirus had jumped from wild animals into humans. After a postdoc working on hepatitis C virus with 2020 Nobel Laureate Charles Rice at The Rockefeller University, Sheahan became an investigator at GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 working to develop host targeting small molecules as antivirals. In 2015, he returned to UNC as an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Sheahan’s current research focuses on developing antiviral therapies to treat emerging coronaviruses as well as developing models to better understand chronic viral infections of the liver. He and his colleagues, in collaboration with Gilead Sciences and Emory Institute of Drug Discovery, have accelerated the preclinical development of several broad-spectrum small molecule antiviral drugs. One of those drugs, remdesivir, is FDA approved to treat COVID-19. The other, molnupiravir, is in phase 2/3 clinical trials. In additional to small molecule drugs, Sheahan and colleagues performed preclinical development on pegylated lambda interferon to treat COVID-19. The human clinical data thus far is very promising.
As five new coronaviruses have emerged in the past 20 years, we are likely to see future novel coronaviruses emerging. Thus, Sheahan will continue to focus his research on the development of broadly acting therapies for some time to come, helping to prepare for the next viral pandemic.