URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — U of I professors will receive $9.5 million over the next three years to study several influenza viruses in ducks.

It’s all a part of the research project funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. It’s one of 13 selected by the institute as part of its $100 million Emerging Pathogens Initiative.

The goal is to study a duck’s immune system. Researchers want to see what can be used to help stop the spread of future diseases in people and other animals, ultimately preventing future pandemics.

They plan on doing this by creating new, untested approaches that reveal how pathogens work. U of I Assistant biochemistry professor Nicholas Wu described the research as high risk, high reward.

“We’re not sure that we’ll find anything,” Wu said. “It might be that there’s nothing special but there’s also a chance that there’s something waiting for us to discover.”

Wu said they’d also like to isolate antibodies from ducks to see if they’re compatible with people and create new antibodies to block the areas where infections occur the most like the lungs.