K-State receives $3.7 million grant for continued research into COVID-19 treatments

Aug. 20—Kansas State University received a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to research a new treatment method for COVID-19.

University officials announced Friday the arrival of the grant from the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The grant will help K-State virologist KC Chang continue his investigation into antiviral therapeutics, with the goal of completing development of a drug for preclinical studies and ultimately leading to a COVID-19 specific antiviral treatment.

"There is currently an urgent and unmet need for the discovery and development of antiviral therapeutics for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19," Chang said in a written statement.

Chang and his co-principal investigator, virologist Yunjeong Kim, are working with scientists from Wichita State University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Iowa on the project. Chang and Kim have worked on antiviral drug development against both human and animal coronaviruses for more than a decade. The team recently published new findings on treatment options in the scientific journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America" (PNAS).

The focus of Chang and Kim's work is on protease inhibitors, or cells that were modified for treating fatal coronavirus infections in cats. That treatment is now under commercial development as a new animal drug.

Chang is a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. Kim is an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Mercury profiled the duo in December 2020 when they shared their excitement for the fast-tracking of vaccines globally.

Derek Mosier, department head of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said in a written statement that Chang and Kim "have established a well-deserved international reputation for research excellence and discovery, so their recent success comes as no surprise."

"Their contributions to the research efforts of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Kansas State University are invaluable," Mosier said.