New £1M Liverpool Laboratory established to help understand how COVID-19 affects people

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The University of Liverpool, University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London have together received £5 million from the Medical Research Council to tackle the coronavirus pandemic from the government’s rapid response call.

This investment in Urgent Public Health Research will increase our understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on the body.

Calum Semple, Professor of Outbreak Medicine the University of Liverpool is Chief Investigator of the Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK (CCP-UK). He is working in partnership with Consortium Lead Investigator and Grant Awardee Dr Kenneth Baillie of University of Edinburgh and Professor Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London.

The grant includes £1 million funding to establish and utilise the Outbreak Laboratory at Liverpool led by Professor Semple who 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.”

Professor Semple, who is supported by the Liverpool-based NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, has assembled a team of specially trained scientists and technicians who can support this research in the Liverpool’s high-level Biological Safety Laboratories. They will collect samples and data from 1300 COVID-19 patients in the UK. The results will provide real-time information about the virus and disease which should help to control the outbreak and improve treatment for patients.

The researchers will discover who in the population is at highest risk of severe illness, what the coronavirus does, what is different between people who have mild and severe disease and why the immune system appears to help some people but harms others.

They will also monitor the effects of trial drugs used in patients and establish how long people are infectious.

The team includes co-investigators from Public Health England and six UK universities. They are an important part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC) that exists to do research in outbreaks.

Professor 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.”

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