Photo showing a researcher examining something under a microscope with their hand visible but the face obscured

CWRU researchers developing treatment for drug-resistant fungus with $3M-plus grant from National Institutes of Health

With a new $3 million-plus grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Case Western Reserve University researchers are examining the next level of treatment for Candida auris (C.auris), a multidrug-resistant yeast that causes serious infection and, in some cases, death.

This fungus was discovered in Japan and has spread internationally, including to the United States.

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of NIH will allow the team led by researchers at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center to evaluate and enhance an antifungal drug developed by the New Jersey-based biotech company, SCYNEXIS.

Headshot of Mahmoud Ghannoum outside the CWRU school of medicine building
Mahmoud Ghannoum

“What is different and particularly scary about Candida auris is that it can survive on skin and healthcare surfaces up to two weeks, allowing the spread from person to person in healthcare settings and nursing homes,” said Mahmoud Ghannoum, professor of dermatology and pathology at the School of Medicine and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

The grant will allow the research team, led by Ghannoum as principal investigator and Thomas McCormick, an associate professor at the School of Medicine, to work on a drug therapy that not only may treat C. auris, but prevent it.

“This fungus is not usually killed by clinically used antifungal drugs, which makes infection difficult to treat and can often result in death for patients. It is also difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods,” Ghannoum said. “We hope to develop new antifungal compounds that will lead to clinical drugs through the research supported by this grant.”

C. auris began spreading in the United States in 2015 and was deemed “an urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to its drug resistance. The fungus can be contracted through contact with contaminated medical equipment or spread person-to-person. There is a 30-60% mortality rate, according to the CDC, although many of those infected had comorbidities or other illnesses.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AI172944. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at

This article was originally published Nov. 30, 2022.