ATLANTA, Ga -- Dr. Christopher Basler, a professor at Georgia State University, has received a five-year, $4.1 million federal grant to develop a drug targeting Ebola virus.

“We still lack any approved drugs to treat Ebola virus infection,” Basler said. “Ebola remains a significant concern. The outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 drives home the significance of Ebola as a public health threat. We need vaccines and drugs to treat the infections. There’s been more progress on the vaccine front than treatment, but hopefully, we’ll come up with new strategies that may lead to new drugs.”

Basler is a professor in the institute for biomedical sciences; director of the university’s center for microbial pathogenesis; and a Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar in microbial pathogenesis.

The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa was the largest known occurrence of the disease and resulted in more than 28,000 infections and 11,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. History shows that Ebola virus periodically reemerges.

“I think given the history, we can expect Ebola virus and other related viruses to come back,” Basler said. “To me, that drives home the importance of having ways to respond.”

The from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, will support Basler’s work to target the viral machinery that Ebola uses to make new copies of its genome, a critical function for the virus to grow and spread. The goal is to find drug compounds that block the growth of Ebola virus.

Basler is collaborating on the project with Dr. Megan Shaw of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, Drs. Sumit Chanda and Anthony Pinkerton of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and Dr. Robert Davey of Texas Biomedical Research Institute.

The four institutions will identify inhibitors of the viral machinery, confirm inhibition against live Ebola virus, determine how the drug candidates block the viral machinery and develop additional tests to identify drug candidates that will inhibit not only Ebola virus, but also other related and deadly viruses, such as Marburg virus.