Dr. Vineet Menachery, postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, was selected recently for a Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
The five-year award, designed as career transition support for “highly motivated, advanced postdoctoral research scientists,” will support Dr. Menachery’s research project, “Systems-Based Analysis of Host Factors that Contribute to Aging Pathogenesis.” The work, which examines SARS-CoV infection to identify immune response change in the context of aging, could change the treatment of aging patients who develop respiratory infection, a leading cause of death among older adults.
The first two years of the NIA award, valued at more than $100,000 each year, will provide Dr. Menachery with continued mentorship at UNC. Subsequent years will be activated at a higher yearly rate when he obtains a tenure-track position. Currently, he conducts research in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Baric, professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School and of microbiology and immunology at UNC’s School of Medicine.
“Dr. Menachery has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms by which SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV cause life-threatening disease in human populations,” Dr. Baric said. “Moreover, he has shown that bat coronaviruses harbor SARS-like viruses that can use human and bat receptors for entry, replicate efficiently in human cells, and resist existing vaccines and therapeutics designed to control the original SARS-CoV epidemic strain. His findings pave the way for the development of broadly effective vaccines and therapeutics that protect the public against future SARS-like emergent strains.”
As aged populations respond poorly to vaccines and are highly vulnerable to emerging coronavirus infections, the award will allow Dr. Menachery to better understand the role of aging in viral pathogenesis and vaccine outcomes, Dr. Baric said.