Kevin Harrod, Ph.D., Benjamin Monroe Carraway Endowed Chair and professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, is no stranger to SARS viruses. A scientist who has focused his entire career on studying respiratory and emerging infectious disease, he says that COVID-19 was a culmination of all he had learned in his previous studies. In the face of a global crisis, Harrod was able to act urgently.

“The award allowed my laboratory to get started immediately without the concern of finding funding.”

“As the only laboratory in the School of Medicine with experience working on coronaviruses—from my studies of the first SARS pandemic in 2002-2003—we were able to go back to our research protocols and quickly identify the methodologies and protocols for handling the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Harrod explains.

Along with Justin Roth and other key compliance and safety staff, Harrod is largely responsible for onboarding scientists in UAB’s SEBLAB, including bio-safety level 3 labs.

For the funded study, his team initially set up a small drug screening platform, then were able to identify FDA drugs that could be repurposed as antivirals for COVID-19 therapy. “We continue to work in this area and continue to identify new antivirals.”

Harrod’s team was recently awarded a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which allowed his team to study SARS-CoV-2 virus in the setting of cystic fibrosis. Harrod says that, interestingly, one of the cystic fibrosis drugs may have antiviral activity.

Now, Harrod’s team has found about 18 drugs that have antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2. “Many of these will be lead compounds in our drug discovery endeavors for the next year,” he says.