The Pandemic Institute funds £500k of monkeypox research


The Pandemic Institute has awarded nearly £500,000 to Liverpool researchers to help tackle the growing threat of monkeypox.

The viral infection is usually found in West and Central Africa but an increasing number of cases have been identified elsewhere including the UK (standing at 2,208 confirmed cases as of 21 July 2022) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern - putting monkeypox on par with diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola and polio.

The funded projects include research on the origins of the outbreak in Africa, studies of transmission and spread, development of rapid diagnostics, investigation of the body’s immune response to help vaccine development, studies of new drug treatments, and understanding of stigma around the disease.

Professor Tom Solomon CBE, Chair of Neurology at the University of Liverpool and Director of The Pandemic Institute as well as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections said: “We are currently dealing with an unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox in the UK and beyond. It is important for us to respond quickly to this emerging threat. In just a matter of weeks The Pandemic Institute has identified, via a peer review process, eleven high-priority projects to address this new threat, and respond to the G7 challenge of producing diagnostics, treatments and vaccines within 100 days of a major emerging infection. This monkeypox funding call has a total budget of £484,257 and covers all TPI domain principles to “Predict, Prevent, Prepare, Respond and Recover” from emerging infection threats.”

The new projects all include at least two of The Pandemic Institute’s seven founding partners (University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Knowledge Quarter (KQ) Liverpool and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) plus a policy project in partnership with the World Health Organisation. The project leads are Dr Ana Karina Pitol Garcia, Professor Calum Semple, Dr Susan Gould, Professor Matthew Baylis, Dr Krishanthi Subramaniam and Dr Lance Turtle, Dr Emily Rebecca Adams, Professor Saye Khoo, Dr Rachel Byrne, Dr Tom Fletcher, James Woolgar and Dr Mark Forshaw.

One awardee, Dr Ana Karina Pitol García, a microbiologist Research Associate at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine whose project looks at contact mediated transmission of monkeypox virus said: “Monkeypox virus is most commonly transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact. Nevertheless, the virus can also be transmitted through contact with contaminated items such as clothing and linens. We are investigating how long the virus survives on the skin and different materials, and how much is transferred by these routes. This information is crucial to help control the spread of the disease.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said at a press conference on the WHO monkeypox declaration: “We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations. For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

The Pandemic Institute’s mission is to accelerate the response to emerging infection threats, unify global intelligence and increase the reach and impact of research in this area. Through its founding partners, the Institute has an impressive breadth of world-leading clinical, academic, public health and data-driven expertise. The combined networks of UK partners and collaborators across the world provide a unique opportunity for The Pandemic Institute to maximise its global reach and have impacts on science and technology, business and economics, and national and international policy.