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£700k awarded to help prepare the world for future pandemics

The Pandemic Institute (TPI) has awarded almost £700k across four projects aimed at better preparing the world for future pandemics.

The funding will be used to employ key research or technical staff who will carry out a range of pandemic preparedness projects, and be ready to pivot to respond rapidly against any new threat that arises. Focus areas include the exploration of health data science in a pandemic, to designing essential diagnostic tests and testing new vaccine candidates.

The opportunity, which was open to founding partners of TPI, was awarded to projects essential for pandemic preparedness. Areas of research include:

  • The Human Challenge Facility, which is a faster, more cost-effective way of assessing how well a new vaccine or treatment works and how safe it is
  • Developing prototype diagnostic tests for current and emerging threats
  • Using health protection data science to deliver next-generation surveillance
  • Testing new vaccine candidates, drugs and other experimental therapies

Professor Tom Solomon CBE, from the University of Liverpool’s Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences Institute, and Director of The Pandemic Institute said:

“The newly funded posts will align with TPI’s core pillars of Predict, Prepare, Prevent, Respond and Recover. Flexible posts like this will be invaluable in enabling us to rapidly address emerging infection challenges.”

One of the research posts will focus on developing key components for diagnostic tests for diseases of pandemic potential, with the ability to pivot rapidly to working on diagnostics for so called ‘Disease X’, the pathogen of pandemic potential that we have not yet discovered.

“This newly funded role will enable the production of the ‘building blocks’ necessary for rapid development of diagnostics during ‘peacetime’ to ensure that when a new threat emerges, diagnostics can be developed quickly and efficiently.” Dr Emily Adams, Reader in Diagnostics for Infectious Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

Another funded project will allow the set up a Pre-Clinical Studies (PCS) Unit at The Pandemic Institute to offer pre-clinical infectious disease modelling to test potential new vaccine candidates and therapeutics. These expertise and infrastructure will allow the Unit to pivot rapidly to new and emerging infections, be it viral of bacterial.

“The TPI funded Pre-Clinical Studies Unit will provide world leading expertise in developing and using clinically relevant in vitro and in vivo models to test new vaccine candidates, drugs and therapies against a range of existing infectious diseases and emerging new threats. The unit will be staffed by two highly experienced infectious disease researchers who will provide a rapid service open to both academic and industrial engagement” Professor Aras Kadioglu, Professor of Bacterial Pathogenesis, University of Liverpool

The Pandemic Institute’s mission is to protect the world from emerging infections and future pandemic threats, and as part of this mission it is actively investing in research. TPI currently has a live funding portfolio of £4.2M, which includes partnership projects with CSL’s Seqirus on human and avian influenza, investment into infrastructure for the LSTM-led Human Challenge Facility and focused funding on Mpox and end-to-end pandemic recovery research.

Launched in 2021, the Institute is formed of seven founding partners: The University of Liverpool (host organisation), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust, and Knowledge Quarter Liverpool.

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The full list of funded projects and researcher staff can be found below:

  • Human Challenge Facility – Dr Andrea Collins (LSTM/Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT), Dr Richard FitzGerald (LSTM/LUHFT) & Professor Tom Solomon (UoL)
  • Diagnostics and immunology for high consequence pathogens – Dr Emily Adams (LSTM), Dr Lance Turtle (UoL) & Dr Tom Fletcher (LSTM)
  • Health protection data science – Professor Iain Buchan (UoL), Dr Daniel Hungerford (UoL), Chris Overton (UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)/UoL), Emer Coffey (Liverpool City Council), Miriam Taegtmeyer (LSTM/ LUHFT)
  • Pre-Clinical Studies Unit – Professor Aras Kadioglu (UoL) & Professor Neil French (UoL)