The HPRU in EZI was established with government funding in 2004 to do research to help Public Health England protect us from emerging and zoonotic infections (those which transmit from animals to humans).
Our unit was very involved in the UK research response to Ebola, and then Zika, and now the new Coronavirus. The HPRU has combined with the Centre of Excellence in in Infectious Diseases Research (CEIDR) to coordinate the University research response to COVID-19. I have oversight and give support to the whole portfolio of COVID-19 research projects.
COVID-19 research areas
The National ISARIC Clinical Characterisation Protocol
Led by Professor Calum Semple, this project is about who gets the infection, how it affects them and why. Dr Lance Turtle is leading studies finding out how the body’s immune reaction to COVID-19 might be helping deal with the infection, or could be making things worse and damaging the body.
COVID-19 – Liverpool community project
This community study, led by Professor Neil French, is telling us critical things about how people are infected in the community and how transmission occurs among them, and whether we can do anything to stop this happening.
As a neurologist, my own area of research is on brain infections. I’m working closely with Dr Benedict Michael, setting up studies to help us understand the neurological complications associated with COVID-19, both across the UK and internationally.
Why working towards tackling COVID-19 inspires me
I’ve worked on emerging infections for more than 25 years. Initially to some this seemed like a rather curious idea. I spent years living in Southeast Asia studying infections which were big problems locally but had not spread beyond. In more recent years we have understood with problems like Ebola and Zika how infections in one part of the world can rapidly emerge to cause problems elsewhere. So I think I’ve always felt inspired that these were important areas of research. I guess the inspiring thing about the University’s current effort is the way all parts of the University have pulled together. We are seeing some very interesting work across different areas and also a fantastic team effort.
There is definitely a sense of team science at the moment. I’ve never seen people work so hard together with such dedication, such long hours, being so innovative to deal with the daily challenges, and yet retain such a good sense of purpose. Despite the difficulties people are working together brilliantly. It’s also important to remember that this sense of team spirit goes way beyond the University and involves Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool Health Partners, other academic partners, and especially the National Health Service as well as Public Health England.
What it means to be part of the University of Liverpool at this time
It’s great to be part of team Liverpool at this time. I can only think of one other example of a team in the city working with such focus, and determination, and commitment to achieve their goals. But at the moment, those young men are stuck in isolation and having to train on their own. Currently there is only one championship team in the city, and I am fortunate to be part of it!
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