READDI co-founder and scientific adviser Ralph Baric is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s epidemiology department and professor in the UNC School of Medicine’s microbiology and immunology department. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities in the study of coronaviruses, noroviruses and dengue viruses, and is responsible for UNC-Chapel Hill’s leading role in coronavirus research.

For the past three decades, Ralph has warned that the emerging coronaviruses represent a significant and ongoing global health threat, particularly because they can jump, without warning, from animals into the human population, and they tend to spread rapidly. Ralph has led the world in recognizing the importance of zoonotic viruses, with detailed studies of the molecular, genetic and evolutionary mechanisms that regulate the establishment and dissemination of these viruses within newly adopted hosts. Specifically, he works to decipher the complex interactions between a virus and cell surface molecules that enable entry and cross-species transmission of RNA viruses.

A member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Ralph earned a Doctor of Philosophy in microbiology and a Bachelor of Science in zoology from North Carolina State University.

Dr. Willson is the Harold Kohn Distinguished Professor in Open Science Drug Discovery at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Chief Scientist of the SGC-UNC site. He has over 30 years of experience in pharmaceutical research with a track record in discovery of first in class clinical candidates. He led the Glaxo program on orphan nuclear receptors that used chemical biology to uncover their role in regulation of human metabolism. He was codiscoverer of the FXR agonist obeticholic acid, an FDA-approved breakthrough drug for liver diseases. His lab discovered the mechanism of action of the diabetes drug pioglitazone (PPARg agonist) and the psoriasis drug tapinarof (AhR agonist). He is widely recognized for scientific leadership in chemical biology and was named one of the world’s 400 most influential biomedical researchers. Dr. Willson has been a long-time supporter of precompetitive chemistry in early drug discovery and was an early advocate of the SGC Chemical Probes project. His current laboratory at UNC works closely with pharma companies and academic investigators to develop small molecule chemical probes for understudied (dark) proteins that are then openly shared with the scientific community. His lab has developed the Kinase Chemogenomic Set (KCGS) that contains selective inhibitors of more than 200 kinases. He is currently the co-PI of the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative AViDD Center (READDI-AC) that seeks to create drugs for viruses of pandemic potential.