Black scientists hope to begin testing antiviral drug for coronavirus in two weeks

Meharry Medical College President James Hildreth has been advocating for advanced or pre-emptive screening in black neighborhoods for weeks.


From NBC News, April 16, 2020—


Meharry Medical College was founded in 1876 in Nashville, Tennessee, to teach medicine to former enslaved Africans and to serve the underserved. Now, in one of its laboratories, a scientist says he is two weeks away from testing an anti-virus to prevent COVID-19, the disease ravaging many African American communities across the country.


“And that makes us all at Meharry compelled to do our best,” the scientist, Dr. Donald Alcendor, who worked a few years ago on a successful anti-virus to the Zika virus, told NBC News.


In other words, it’s personal.


“This is bigger than COVID-19,” said Dr. Linda Witt, the senior associate vice president for development at Meharry, a historically black college, or HBCU. “We are called to serve on the front lines. For Meharrians, it’s natural to go into our communities. We exist in the black community. But it’s at a heightened level now. And having an HBCU presence, voice and expertise is essential.”


Alcendor said the irony of the social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines is that he now has the time to enter Meharry in the global race to find treatment for COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies and countless scientists, including at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt, are scurrying to create a drug to offset the disease. Alcendor, at the behest of Meharry President James E.K. Hildreth, embraces his role in the competition.


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