Project Manager: Jayakrishna Ambati

Virginia Initiative for Accelerating Drugs (VIAD): The purpose of this award is to identify drug repurposing candidates through use of data analytics.

BoV Approved: Fall 2019

Project Dates: 11/01/2019 – 10/31/2022

Funding Awarded: $1,000,000

Executive Summary

Identifying new therapies for diseases that have no adequate treatments is among the great challenges facing modern medicine. The overwhelming majority of potential therapeutic compounds fail in the current “one drug – one target – one disease” testing paradigm. A promising complementary approach to drug development is finding new uses for existing medicines, known as drug repurposing. The mission of the proposed Virginia Initiative for Accelerating Drugs (VIAD), part of the University of Virginia, is to unleash the full spectrum of therapeutic activities of drugs by creating and implementing a paradigm-inverting Big Data archaeological approach to drug development that enables novel patentable entities, expedites repurposing, and launches unimaginable avenues of transdisciplinary collaborative scientific exploration. 

VIAD will support its mission by utilizing novel healthcare data analytics to identify drug repurposing candidates. This exciting effort will also support the development of a network of faculty and organizations across Grounds, including the School of Medicine and the Licensing & Ventures Group to advance the University’s educational mission. VIAD will attract preeminence to the University by establishing a new template for drug development in the 21st century to radically improve healthcare outcomes in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Current Status: Active


The PAC was particularly impressed with the progress of this award when they reviewed it at their December 2020 meeting. The VIAD initiative has made numerous unexpected drug-disease association discoveries over the past year that have already influenced the treatment of COVID-19 and promise to impact the treatment of other prevalent diseases. The VIAD approach led to the first report that there was no clinical benefit of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 and possible harm, months before the first randomized clinical trials came to the same conclusion. By analyzing and sharing accurate, timely, transparent and accessible data, the work of this team contributed to countless lives that were saved from serious adverse events and possibly death across the world. Furthermore, VIAD’s finding that anti-HIV drugs known as NRTIs reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications. VIAD also made the surprising finding that the anti-depressant fluoxetine reduces the risk of macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes blindness.