Medical school faculty receive $407,629 grant to support herpesvirus research

A man sits at a microscope and a woman looks into a microscope

Mercer University School of Medicine faculty members Dr. Robert Visalli and Melissa Visalli were recently awarded a $407,629 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Enhancement Award (R15) to support development of a first-of-its-kind antiviral drug for human herpesvirus.

The grant proposal, titled “Targeting the Structurally Conserved Portal Protein as a Strategy to Develop a First-In-Class Broad-Spectrum Herpesvirus Antiviral Drug, PORT 1,” was funded through the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) as a Research Enhancement Program (REAP) award.

REAP represents one of two types of R15 awards that support projects at professional and graduate schools that have not been major recipients of NIH support in order to stimulate basic and clinical research and contribute to the nation’s biomedical research effort. The goals of R15 awards are to support meritorious research, expose students to research and strengthen the research environment of the institution.

“Although these studies may lead to new broad-spectrum therapeutic options to treat herpesvirus infections, equally important is the opportunity to provide undergraduate, graduate and medical students opportunities to participate in productive research with hands-on mentoring,” said Dr. Visalli. “Melissa and I have a genuine interest in exposing students to quality, impactful research experiences that include professionalism and integrity.”

Dr. Visalli serves as professor of microbiology on the School of Medicine’s Savannah campus. During his more than 30 years of research on human herpesvirus, he has been involved in the development of an attenuated herpes simplex virus vaccine candidate and the discovery of a novel class of thiourea compounds amenable to antiviral chemotherapy.

Continuing reading about the grant and Dr. Visalli’s work at