Pitt’s athletic administrators and coaches have made a significant contribution towards the university’s ongoing research into a vaccine for COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the school announced that athletic director Heather Lyke, football coach Pat Narduzzi, basketball coaches Jeff Capel and Lance White and their families had donated a combined $500,000 toward the school’s Center for Vaccine Research, which is working to create a vaccine.
Furthermore, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers donated another $100,000 each, bringing the total donation to $800,000.
“Nothing great in life is ever achieved alone,” Lyke said in a press release. “Pitt Athletics is honored to join forces with the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers in support of the Center for Vaccine Research and its extraordinary researchers. April marked the 65th anniversary of Dr. Jonas Salk’s victory over polio and it is apparent that funding for vaccine research remains as crucial as ever. David and I are proud to support CVR’s mission of making the world a healthier, safer place.”
The Pitt and UPMC vaccine team has developed a potential vaccine, PittCoVacc, which was announced on April 2 after a peer-reviewed paper following testing in mice.
“We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine. “That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.”
“We are stunned by the generosity and support the Pittsburgh community has shown for our center over the past few months, most recently from Pitt Athletics and our local sports teams—the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins,” said Center for Vaccine Research director Paul Duprex, Ph.D. “That’s the legacy of Jonas Salk on this town. Pittsburgh understands the importance of vaccines, and we’re so grateful to be located here, where we can do our work to combat COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, knowing the community is behind us.”
With athletic departments across the country predicting large budget shortfalls due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and the bracing for a potential fall without football, many athletic departments are asking coaches to take pay cuts. Instead, Pitt’s have made an impactful donation.
More from the coaches:
Pat Narduzzi: “The University of Pittsburgh is a remarkable place with so many people doing life-changing work right here on our campus. We’re facing this challenge together, and we will only overcome it by working together. My wife Donna and I are honored to support Pitt’s scientists, and we can’t wait to yell ‘Hail to Pitt!’ when they achieve victory with a vaccine.”
Jeff Capel: “The University of Pittsburgh has an incredible history with vaccine discoveries. My wife Kanika and I are blessed to be in position to partner with colleagues here at Pitt to make this contribution to the Center for Vaccine Research. Dr. Duprex and his team are doing heroic work and we are proud to support their effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lance White: “Since our arrival two years ago, my wife Melanie and I have been so impressed by the University of Pittsburgh, its people and the great things they achieve every day. We are proud to be part of the Pitt community and that feeling is magnified when you see the incredible work being done at the Center for Vaccine Research. It’s an honor to support Pitt’s researchers as they continue to make strides in this fight against COVID-19.”