Lab established in Liverpool to study how novel coronavirus affects people
The UK’s Medical Research Council has granted £5 million collectively to the University of Liverpool, the Imperial College London, and the University of Edinburgh to handle the coronavirus outbreak from the government’s rapid response call.
This investment in Urgent Public Health Research is necessary to understand COVID-19 as well as its impact on the human body, said the University of Liverpool.
As part of the funding from the Medical Research Council, £1 million will be spent on setting up and using the Outbreak Laboratory at Liverpool, which will be led by Calum Semple, Professor of Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool. Calum Semple is Chief Investigator of the Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK (CCP-UK).
The University of Liverpool professor is collaborating with Professor Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London and consortium lead investigator and grant awardee Dr Kenneth Baillie of the University of Edinburgh.
Calum Semple said: “The Outbreak Lab is a unique UK National resource enabling collection, distribution and analysis of thousands of specimens at high containment levels to ensure public safety.”
The Liverpool-based NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections is providing support to Calum Semple who is said to have formed a team of specially trained scientists and technicians who can support the research in the city’s high-level biological safety laboratories.
The team will collect samples and data from 1300 coronavirus patients across the UK. The results are expected to offer real-time information on the virus and disease which will help to control the outbreak and improve treatment for COVID-19 patients.
The data collected will enable the researchers to find who in the population is at the highest risk of getting severely ill, what the novel coronavirus does, how the severity of the illness affects different people and why the immune system seems to help some people but affects others.
The researchers will also study the effects of trial drugs used in coronavirus patients and determine how long people are infectious.
The team, which includes co-investigators from Public Health England and six UK universities, is said to be an important part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC) that has been formed to carry out research in outbreaks.
Calum Semple said: “This coronavirus pandemic is the greatest pathogenic threat to humanity for over 100 years. Not since 1918 have we seen such an impact on global society, but there is hope because for the first time, the world’s scientific community is cooperating to combat this disease.”