China’s largest property developer, Shenzhen-based Evergrande Group, is funding a five-year, $115 million collaborative research push based partly in the Boston, Massachusetts area to combat COVID-19, the coronavirus whose rapid and unpredictable global spread has roiled markets and heightened concerns over spillover effects into broader real economies.

More than 80 scientists and clinicians convened in person and remotely earlier this week to launch the initiative at Harvard Medical School, where Evergrande has been a longtime supporter.

The U.S. portion of the research team will be based at the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases and at nearby Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

China’s efforts under the Evergrande partnership will be based out of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, under the leadership of Zhong Nanshan, a pulmonologist and epidemiologist who also serves as director-general of China State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases.

The Evergrande initiative will initially target the development of rapid and accurate diagnostic testing, epidemiological modeling, biomarker identification, antiviral therapies and vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

“Evergrande is honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the fight against this global public health threat,” said Hui Ka Yan, chair of the China Evergrande Group, who was quoted in the Harvard Gazette when plans for the international partnership were first made public in late February.

“Coronavirus is not good for real estate, any more than it’s good for any other part of society,” said Sten Vermund, an epidemiologist and dean of the Yale School of Public Health, as quoted in Science.

Economic effects

On Friday, Yicai Global news reported that Evergrande Group reported CNY44.7 billion (USD 6.4 billion) in contracted sales in February, a more-than-twofold increase compared to February last year. Shares of the company, which are publicly listed in Hong Kong and trade over-the-counter in the U.S., declined more than 2% after that announcement in the expectation that the economic effects of the coronavirus will impact the company’s second quarter financial results.

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