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£8.4m announced for new research into COVID-19 and immunology

Three new national studies will receive £8.4 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and bring together scientists from 17 universities across the UK to better understand immune responses to COVID-19.

The scientists aim to develop better tests to define immunity and study the body’s immune response to understand why some people suffer from more severely from COVID-19 whilst others have mild or asymptomatic infections but can still transmit the virus, and if immunity persists and how long for.

This briefing brought together the leads of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC), one of the three studies which will receive £6.5 million to investigate key questions including:

  • How long does immunity from COVID-19 last?
  • Why are some people’s immune systems better able to fight off the virus?
  • Why do some people’s immune responses cause damage, especially to the lungs?
  • How does the virus ‘hide from’ the immune system and how can this be tackled?
  • Does immunity to previous infection with seasonal coronaviruses (which cause the common cold) alter a person’s outcome with SARS-CoV-2?

Better understanding of these immune responses, particularly the T cell response, could provide targets for new therapies to treat COVID-19 and inform the efforts to develop a vaccine.

 

Speakers included:

Prof Paul Moss, UK-CIC lead and Professor of Haematology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer in the College of Medicine

Prof Arne Akbar, UK-CIC advisory board chair, Professor of Immunology at UCL and President of the British Society for Immunology

Prof Peter Openshaw, UK-CIC co-chair, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London and Honorary Physician in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the Imperial College NHS Trust

Prof Tracy Hussell, UK-CIC theme lead, Professor of Inflammatory Disease and Director of the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation at the University of Manchester

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