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Federal grants to fund studies of coronaviruses at Georgia State

A professor at Georgia State University has received federal grants to study two coronaviruses, the school announced Monday. Christopher Basler, director of Georgia State’s Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, will use a $387,534 grant to focus on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and a $429,000 grant to study SARS-coV-2, the virus that causes COVID- 19.

MERS has a much higher case fatality rate than SARS-coV-2. However, MERS also spreads less easily between infected and uninfected people.

“The goal of the MERS coronavirus study is to understand how the virus defeats the body’s innate immune response that is designed to provide rapid protection from viral infections,” Basler said. “The findings of this work should help explain why this virus is so deadly.”

The second study Basler will undertake seeks to understand how SARScoV- 2 relies on fats within an infected cell to grow and spread. The hope is that understanding what features of the cell the virus relies on will provide insight into how the virus causes disease and suggest new treatment strategies.

Early data from the study indicates the virus relies on cellular pathways that are also of interest to drug makers trying to treat cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Both grants are being underwritten by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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