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Philanthropy Powering Science: $1.6M in New Funding for Wistar Coronavirus Research

May 13, 2020

In mere weeks, philanthropic support of Wistar’s Coronavirus Discovery Fund has exceeded $1.6M in new funding thanks to an extraordinary response from individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors. As our scientists focused their research to advance vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics targeting the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, Wistar donors moved with the same speed, committing to put our discovery science into action in a variety of important ways. This pace of investment in research now underway at Wistar will allow us to accelerate and potentiate progress against SARS-CoV-2 and future viral threats the world may confront.

Under the leadership of Dr. David Weiner, executive vice president, director of the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center (VIC), and W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research, our team continues to carry out pivotal laboratory testing of its synthetic DNA vaccine. Funding support has enabled us to expand that research through the purchase of critical equipment that allows for real-time, high-throughput assays required for vaccine development, and will hasten the Institute’s ability to respond to future pandemic threats as they arise.

Dr. Daniel Kulp, associate professor in the VIC, is engineering nanoparticle-based immunotherapies that target SARs-CoV-2. He and his team use extremely small (nano) particles to display multiple copies of critical parts of the virus in order to stimulate immunity against COVID-19.  Donor support for his project is allowing the lab to design molecular simulations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — the surface protein that lets the virus invade healthy cells.

Not only did individual donors make a strong commitment to Wistar Science; so did foundations, including The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation. Dr. Hildegund Ertl, vaccine expert and a professor in the VIC, is creating a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine based on safe viral delivery technologies. Genetically modified adenoviruses are great delivery vehicles for vaccines because they induce neutralizing antibodies and killer T-cell responses. Dr. Ertl’s goal is to apply innovative technologies created in her lab to develop a vaccine that will produce strong and sustained protection to COVID-19. The Mathers Foundation and steadfast Wistar supporters quickly mobilized to provide critical support for this project.

This is not Wistar’s first pandemic. We are uniquely prepared for this moment by a near-century’s worth of Wistar achievement in developing vaccines that have saved countless lives. Wistar’s community of supporters has provided the resources and tools our scientists need to work efficiently and effectively to address this pandemic. For that, we thank you deeply. We’re all in this for science. Because Wistar Science saves lives.

If you would like to play a role in advancing Wistar’s research fighting COVID-19, your donation will keep the momentum going and inspire our scientists to continue tackling the world’s biggest threats.