NEWS | Dec. 9, 2020

DOD Awards University of Louisville $8.5 Million for COVID-19 Q-Griffithsin Repurposing Effort

By Press Release

FORT DETRICK, Md. – December 9, 2020 – The Department of Defense (DOD) awarded an $8.5 million other transaction agreement (OTA) to the University of Louisville (UofL) in Louisville, Kentucky, to develop a pre-exposure prophylactic nasal spray that will prevent serious viral respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The nasal spray uses Q-Griffithsin (Q-GRFT), a potent antiviral protein previously developed by the UofL, the University of Pittsburgh, and the National Cancer Institute. Repurposing an existing compound like Q-GRFT is a rapid and efficient way to determine if it is safe and efficacious for the prevention of novel diseases, such as COVID-19. Through this award, the UofL will develop the spray, test the formulation in lab studies, and conduct a Phase I clinical trial. The spray is intended to protect frontline health care workers, military personnel living in close quarters and other essential workers, as well as vulnerable people for whom a vaccine might not be fully protective.

The DOD’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense’s (JPEO-CBRND) Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Medical (JPM CBRN Medical), with support from the Defense Health Agency, executed the OTA with the UofL for this effort through the Medical CBRN Defense Consortium (MCDC). While the agreement is intended to specifically address the threat COVID-19 currently poses to both U.S. civilians and service members, the technology’s potential to also protect against other biological threats our service members may face, such as other coronaviruses, the Nipah virus, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), makes it a particularly important DOD investment.

“The fight against COVID-19 is not slowing down any time soon, so we need to work faster and smarter with academic institutions like the University of Louisville to tackle this threat,” said Col. Ryan Eckmeier, the Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Medical. “Repurposing existing broad spectrum compounds to prevent and treat biological agents that may harm our service members is another tool in our rapid response toolbox, and will ideally diminish the progression of the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as potentially lessen the severity of other future bio events.”

To learn more about this effort, please visit: http://www.uoflnews.com/releases/uofl-to-develop-and-test-nasal-spray-to-prevent-covid-19/ 

About the JPEO-CBRND: The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) protects the Joint Force by providing medical countermeasures and defense equipment against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. JPEO-CBRND’s goal is to enable the Joint Force to fight and win unencumbered by a CBRN environment. JPEO-CBRND facilitates the rapid response, advanced development, manufacturing and acquisition of medical solutions, such as vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, to combat CBRN and emerging threats such as COVID-19. To learn more about JPEO-CBRND’s COVID-19 response, visit https://www.jpeocbrnd.osd.mil/coronavirus or follow JPEO-CBRND on social media at @JPEOCBRND.