Government invests £18.6m in North West infection research

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An aerial shot of the University of Liverpool Campus
An aerial shot of the University of Liverpool campus, looking towards the River Mersey

The University of Liverpool is part of a major new consortium project to boost productivity and generate jobs in the local region, through the creation of eight specialist, commercially sustainable research platforms for infectious disease therapeutics.

The project is one of seven regional research and innovation projects announced today to receive a share of £186 million government funding from UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF).

The North-west England consortium has received £18.6m of SIPF funding to deliver on an innovative project delivering integrated therapeutic solutions for human infections. This will be matched with £95m from other public, private sector and philanthropic organisations over a five year period.

Led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the consortium also includes Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Unilever UK, Evotec and the AMR Centre.

The University of Liverpool will host two of the eight platforms, focused on accelerating the development of new antibiotics and anti-infective surfaces and delivered through the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research (CEIDR).

Professor William Hope will lead the Animal Model Platform, which will establish more clinically relevant animal models for use in the early development of new antibiotics. The platform will be supported by the university’s state-of the-art infrastructure and expertise in antimicrobial Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics.

Professor Rasmita Raval will lead the Antimicrobial Surfaces Formulation Platform, which will accelerate the discovery and development of anti-infective surfaces. Situated in the Open Innovation Hub for Antimicrobial Surfaces, this platform will respond to a major unmet need in infection control.

Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences, said: “Our region is home to some of the world’s leading infectious diseases research and innovation. Now, more than ever, we need to work collaboratively to solve pressing global health challenges such as antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19. It’s fantastic to see the government investing in this vital area of research, which will benefit both human health and the regional economy.”

The Liverpool City Region, Cheshire and Warrington have the largest concentration of infectious diseases research in the UK. The critical importance of the sector is highlighted by the speed and efficiency by which the region has focused and mobilised their resources to address the COVID-19 crisis with active research programmes in diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “The need to develop new treatments for infectious diseases has never been clearer, so this funding is fantastic news. This new approach to public R&D investment aims to boost local economic growth by building on world-class research and innovation capacity. This grant recognises the region’s existing strengths in this area and has already generated guarantees of around £90m for pilot projects eager to use the new platforms. There is great potential for high-quality jobs and economic value for Liverpool City Region and beyond.”

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, said: “Today’s announcement will ensure some of our country’s most promising R&D projects get the investment they need to take off and thrive.

“Working with the private sector our world-class universities, we’re backing new and innovative ideas that will create jobs and boost skills in every part of the UK for years to come.”