CELT celebrates Healthcare Science Week 2024 with Professor Saye Khoo

Posted on: 15 March 2024 by Rebecca Derrick in LONGEVITY Blog

Professor Saye Khoo is smiling into the camera with the blog's title over the top

Healthcare Science Week is a week dedicated to celebrating the work of over fifty scientific specialisms and professional groups that make up the National Health Service’s diverse workforce.

Healthcare Science Week 2024

People within the NHS use Healthcare Science Week to acknowledge the science professionals within the NHS whose work informs all the decisions made throughout their patient-centred care, from diagnosis, to treatment, to aftercare.

While our Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT) team sits within the University of Liverpool, we wanted to use this week to mark the importance of healthcare science within the NHS to our own work, specifically with CELT’s Professor Saye Khoo. Prof Khoo has been working in infection pharmacology at the University for over 25 years, and with CELT since our beginnings in 2020, and is about to embark on a new collaborative project with the NHS.


Where this CELT project with the NHS started

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 10 million people worldwide fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) in 2022. According to the NHS, the disease includes symptoms such as a cough, fever, swellings, loss of appetite and weight loss, and in 2020 TB was the second largest cause of death from infection in the world after COVID-19.

Medications currently on the market are effective on their own or in combination with other drugs, in treatment or prevention of TB. However, current treatments need to be taken daily or weekly, and it’s important patients don’t miss doses.

A large part of the work we do here at CELT is to take important medications and find a way of reducing how often patients need to take them. There are medications for TB that we already know work, and are safe, but involve taking oral doses several times a day. Finding a way to reduce that medication dosage to once a month, or once every four months, removes concerns around medicine adherence while still maintaining its effectiveness. For people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) it can be especially difficult to adhere to a daily regimen. Our aim is to improve access to long-acting medications for treating and reducing infection rates in diseases such as TB to make the lives of those with the infection or living in areas where it is the most prevalent easier. Our LONGEVITY project, led by CELT co-director Prof Andrew Owen and funded by Unitaid, aims to transform TB prevention with long-acting injectable medicines.


How did we get from research to NHS collaboration?

As with all of the long-acting medications CELT is working with, there was a lengthy pre-clinical process before we would start a clinical trial in humans. The journey to where we are now builds upon over a decade of collaborative research between CELT co-directors Prof Andrew Owen and Prof Steve Rannard. This integration of advanced chemistry and pharmacology expertise allows us to make sure the new version of the medication does what we expect before we reach any human participants.

The clinical trials are the first part in human studies of the new long-acting formulations. There have always been strong relationships between the University’s research work and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and Prof Owen and Prof Khoo have collaborated closely for over 20 years. The team will work with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency accredited Early Phase Trials Facility at the hospital for the first steps of the human tests, which is situated close to CELT’s labs.

The clinical trials will involve administering the new versions of the medication to volunteer participants so we can see that the drugs still exhibit the effect we would expect to see from our pre-clinical research and that they are safe. This is a collaborative venture with joint affiliations, so our team and the NHS team will be working together in the labs and towards the new drugs end goal.


What will the impact of this healthcare research with the NHS be to global health?

While trials around TB medications have done well in the past, the real-world outcomes haven’t been as good. The therapeutic impacts have matched what we’ve expected to see, but people at the highest risk of contracting the disease, including in LMICs, are also the most likely not to be able to adhere to their medication. There are many reasons for this, ranging from lifestyles that make adherence hard, discrepancies in access to medications across the globe, and infrastructure differences for getting them to people who need them.

If the clinical trials are successful, long-acting TB medications will offer patients options around their medications and make important differences to their health and lives. Regularly having to come back to medical practices for treatments can be hard, so reducing the number of visits and drug administration would relieve the drug burden that daily medication can create, and reduce stigma, which is important in many contexts. Alongside this, long-acting TB medicines may not only benefit current patients but also future ones by lowering secondary infection rates.

The more convenient our research can make treatment, the more people it will reach. All this work takes us closer to global efforts for ending the TB epidemic.


The LONGEVITY project aims to simplify TB preventative treatment and reduce the number of patients requiring complex therapies for active disease.

Find out more about the LONGEVITY project's work on TB


The LONGEVITY Project is funded by Unitaid

The project also involves critical partners and collaborators in the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, Medicines Patent Pool, Tandem Nano Ltd., Treatment Action Group and the University of Nebraska Medical Center