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The Center of Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens aims to accelerate research related to the novel coronavirus.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

The Perelman School of Medicine at Penn has established a new center, the Center of Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens, to expand research efforts and support the development of new therapies and vaccines. 

The Center aims to accelerate research related to the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness. The Center will host a large group of investigators and clinicians to accelerate the discovery of safe and effective therapies and vaccines, Penn Medicine News reported. 

Susan Weiss, a microbiology professor, and Frederic Bushman, the chair of the Microbiology Department will lead the center as co-directors, Penn Medicine News reported.

Under Weiss's direction, ongoing coronavirus research efforts at Penn include studying the lung microbiome during coronavirus infection, developing advanced vaccines, and developing gene-based medicine to treat coronavirus infection. 

"Through this Center, we hope to scale up existing research efforts and launch targeted new projects to help develop safe and effective ways to diagnose, treat and even prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections," Bushman told Penn Medicine News.

COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, which is part of a family known as coronaviruses, seven of which can infect humans, according to Penn Medicine News.

Researchers from Penn Medicine, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and The Wistar Institute will sit on the Center's Internal Advisory Board, Penn Medicine News reported.

The establishment of the Center comes days after Penn opened Philadelphia’s first two drive-thru coronavirus test sites. 

On Wednesday, Philadelphia reported its first known coronavirus death. As of Friday afternoon, there are 637 confirmed cases in the city and 2,218 in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ordered this week that all city residents remain home unless performing essential personal activities.

Three Penn students have tested positive for coronavirus, Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé announced on March 16.