Elon Musk will fund a new project by two Boston researchers who are credited with creating a coronavirus vaccine and a coronavirus diagnostic tool that aims to understand the inner workings of the disease. The new project received a donation of $5 million from the Musk Foundation.
The Musk Foundation will provide the gift to both Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard Dr. Galit Alter, a professor in medicine at the Ragon Institute, reports The Business Journal. Researchers will explore the fundamental inner workings of the novel coronavirus as well as two yet-to-be-decided diseases.
“Applying these techniques to human disease will give us substantial insights into how disease processes work, how immune response works, and how we can treat and cure diseases,” Barouch said.
Alter said she has worked with Musk's SpaceX since early 2020, using a test she developed to help the company test its employees for coronavirus antibodies in preparation for a rocket launch in May. Following this, Musk reached out to Alter and her colleagues at Harvard to better understand how antibodies work. “It was so cool to see someone so focused on revolutionizing the world interested in how we fight itty-bitty viruses,” Alter said.
After several conversations, Musk told the team that he was interested in funding coronavirus research and development, prompting Alter and Barouch to submit several proposals to the Musk Foundation. The funding grant will not only give each researcher $2.5 million for their work but will allow them to study how the coronavirus and two other diseases interact with the immune system on a broader and deeper level. With financial support from the Musk Foundation, scientists will be able to conduct open research into these three diseases.
In addition to coronavirus, Alter and Barouch will focus on cancer, as well as other infectious disease. “What we’re hoping to do is use this funding from the Musk Foundation to prove that the same kind of infusion of money into three disease areas could move the science faster than we could ever expect traditional funding mechanisms to push.”
Peter Healy, president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, applauded the funding for supporting the hospital’s research work. “We greatly appreciate the Musk Foundation in supporting these scientists and their critical work,” he said.
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