CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WTVO) — Several species of birds are known to carry infectious viruses, but what keeps them from getting sick?

University of Illinois professors will get $9.5 million over the next three years to figure that out.

The goal is to study a duck’s immune system. They 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. One professor described the research as high risk, high reward.

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

Some of those new tests including isolating antibodies from ducks to see if they are compatible with people. Professors said that they would also like to create new antibodies to block the areas where infections occur the most, like the lungs.