Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) is receiving a $36 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense. The funding will go toward research into how viruses affect humans.
The institute specializes in creating tissues and organs that can be implanted into patients. But this research calls for a downsizing of sorts. Dr. Anthony Atala is the director of WFIRM.
“So the strategy is to really miniaturize these into very tiny tissues and organs made with human cells that we can then place on a chip and use that chip for testing of drugs and viruses,” he says.
The study will utilize the body-on-a-chip platform as well as artificial intelligence in order to determine how viruses infect and spread. The research will start with commonly known viruses, then move on to those considered to be more dangerous.
Dr. Atala says it can take months to understand how novel viruses work. This research could speed things up, but it begins with introducing known viruses to the chip.
“So then when we have unknown viruses, we already have a catalog that will point us to what type of virus it may be, and how to best treat it in the future,” says Atala.
WFIRM and the federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency — which supplied the funding — are hoping the research yields new findings related to drug, safety, and efficacy testing.