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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Mir

WesternU CVM Researcher Receives $1.6 Million R01 Grant from the Department of Defense

Dr. Mohammad Mir
Dr. Mohammad Mir, PhD

JAN. 2020 – Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine Associate Professor Mohammad Mir, PhD, has received a $1.6 million Department of Defense (DoD) grant to identify new compounds to prevent replication of the Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus in host cells.

The project is titled “Therapeutic Intervention of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever: A Tick-Borne Viral Illness” and proposes to test the hypothesis that chemical inhibition of N protein-panhandle interaction will inhibit Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) replication in the infected cells. The Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a tick-born, highly contagious, viral illness with mortality rates as high as 40% in certain outbreaks, and there is currently no treatment for this disease.

Thus far, Dr. Mir’s research team at WesternU has identified two distinct RNA binding sites in the stalk and head domain of the CCHF virus nucleocapsid protein. His lab demonstrated that RNA binding site located in the stalk domain of this protein is a novel target for therapeutic intervention of this viral disease.

The short-term goal of this project seeks to develop an antiviral drug for the treatment of CCHF, .while the long-term goal will be to develop an antiviral drug for the treatment of CCHF. As this viral infection causes a global health problem due to the lack of FDA approved vaccine and effective therapeutic agents for both humans and animals, the development of an antiviral therapeutic stands to benefit both the general public and a diverse animal population effected by the virus. Additionally, apart from direct public health relevance, this grant application will meet the healthcare needs of US military service members employed at geographical regions pandemic to the CCHF virus disease.

This has indeed been a hefty task for Dr. Mir, who highlighted that DOD grants are highly competitive and undergo a highly stringent three-tier review process which includes a trip through a review conducted by 25-30 infectious disease experts, resulting in only 10%-15% of the applications submitted being forwarded to the next process. Having been a part of the accepted applications, Dr. Mir was asked to submit a full proposal, which was in turn reviewed by three independent experts and discussed in a large study section composed of experts from diverse research backgrounds. Around 5% of applications receive the highest priority are scored to undergo internal review by the DOD—only the applications meeting the requirements of the Military Infectious Disease Research Program are finally selected for funding.