A team of Harvard scientists will collaborate with a Chinese research institute in a five-year effort to study the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 78,000 people worldwide, according to a University press release Monday.
Co-led by Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley and Zhong Nanshan — the head of an expert team within China’s National Health Commission that is investigating the outbreak — the partnership will focus on creating more accurate diagnostic tests and designing vaccines, antiviral therapies, and treatments. Members of the group have held two video chats since its formation to begin the partnership, according to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton.
According to the press release, Daley said that the Medical School is “uniquely positioned” to bring together experts in virology, infectious diseases, structural biology, pathology, vaccine development, epidemiology, and public health for the project.
“Harnessing our science to tackle global health challenges is at the very heart of our mission as an institution dedicated to improving human health and well-being worldwide,” he said in the release.
The two research partners will share $115 million in funding from China Evergrande Group, a real estate giant and Fortune Global 500 company.
Zhong gained international recognition for his work combatting the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak. He was also the first scientist to publicly confirm human-to-human transmissibility during 2019’s n-Cov epidemic.
“We are extremely encouraged by the generous gesture from Evergrande to coordinate and support the collaboration and by the overwhelmingly positive response from our Harvard colleagues,” Zhong said in the press release.
“We look forward to leveraging each of our respective strengths to address the immediate and longer-term challenges and a fruitful collaboration to advance the global well-being of all people,” he added.
Hui Ka Yan, who chairs China Evergrande Group, said in the press release that the company is “honored” to work to stop the outbreak. The group’s CEO, Xia Haijun, visited University President Lawrence S. Bacow in Cambridge last Wednesday, according to a statement from the company.
“Evergrande is honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the fight against this global public health threat,” Hui Ka Yan said in Harvard’s press release. “We thank all the scientists who responded so swiftly and enthusiastically from the Harvard community and are deeply moved by Harvard and Dr. Zhong’s team’s dedication and commitment to this humanitarian cause. We have the utmost confidence in this global collaborative team to reach impactful discoveries against the outbreak soon.”
Bacow said in the release that the collaborators are “confident” that their work will “contribute valuable discoveries” to broader global efforts to combat coronavirus.
“We are grateful for Evergrande’s leadership and generosity in facilitating this collaboration and for all the scientists and clinicians rising to the call of action in combating this emerging threat to global well-being,” he said.
Harvard affiliates participating in the effort include Daley; Medical School Dean for Research Operations and Global Programs David E. Golan; Immunology department chair Arlene H. Sharpe; Medicine professor Bruce D. Walker; Harvard School of Public Health Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics director Marc Lipsitch; and Lindsey R. Baden, the director of clinical research in Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
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—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.
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