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£14.1 million funding announced for new COVID-19 research on treatments, vaccines and epidemiology

Published: 17 April 2020

Twenty-one new studies into the novel coronavirus have been funded by the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The new research projects include the first drug trial in primary care, studies on new vaccines and therapies, and research into disease transmission, behavioral interventions and policy approaches to COVID-19.

This round of projects has received a total £14.1 million from the NIHR and UKRI as part of their rapid research response to COVID-19.

These projects build on the UK’s world-class expertise in global health and infectious disease that has already shaped our understanding of the pandemic and is informing measures to tackle it. They support the UK government’s efforts to save lives, protect the vulnerable and support the NHS so it can help those who need it the most.

The projects will run over a maximum 18-month period, ensuring timely insights into the current epidemic.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield, NIHR COVID-19 Research Operations Director, said: "In just a few weeks the UK's health and science communities have risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19 in deeply inspiring ways. Alongside the selfless work being done by our amazing frontline NHS staff, our world-leading research community is also putting its cutting-edge expertise to use in myriad ways.

"Though the studies announced today may vary in theme, they all represent some of the best and brightest scientific research into COVID-19 being done anywhere in the world." 

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “The research community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been outstanding. In a matter of weeks, researchers have formed projects to develop potential vaccines, repurpose existing drugs and explore the potential for new medicines, and to examine how the virus is transmitted and causes wide variation in symptoms. Pre-clinical trials of vaccines and clinical trials of drugs are already underway.

“The pace at which this work has been carried out is tribute to the UK’s world-class research base and its dedication to the fight against this disease.” 

The call has invested in a number of projects to understand the prevalence of coronavirus infections in the community, which is necessary for NHS planning and the public health response. Information collected by these studies will include: how many people become infected; how many of them become ill; what their symptoms are; how many seek health care; how commonly they transmit to household contacts; what proportion need hospitalisation; and what proportion die.

For example, the What’s the STORY (Serum Testing of Representative Youngsters) project will repurpose an existing study of infectious disease immunity in children and teenagers to study the presence of antibodies against coronavirus - a marker of having had the disease and now having immunity. This study will follow approximately 400 children and teenagers per month for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. The researchers will also collect information on recent respiratory illnesses and relevant medical history.

Six projects on vaccines and therapies for the novel coronavirus have already received £10.5 million in the first round of funding from NIHR and UKRI. Together the two rounds of funding have invested £24.6 million into 26 research projects to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Funded projects

Clinical trials

1) Testing new treatments for COVID-19 in primary care - the Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against COVID-19 In older peoPLE (PRINCIPLE) study
Professor Christopher Butler, University of Oxford, £1.7 million

Vaccine development

2) Investigating a promising RNA-based vaccine
Professor Robin Shattock, Imperial College London, £1.7 million

3) Developing an animal model of coronavirus infection
Professor Miles Carroll, Public Health England, £0.4 million

Therapy development

4) Creating a polyclonal antibody treatment
Dr Stuart Dowall, Public Health England, £0.4 million

Antibody testing

5) A new antibody test for coronavirus
Professor Richard Tedder, Imperial College London, £0.4 million

Population surveillance

6) Tracking coronavirus among households
Professor Andrew Hayward, University College London, £3.2 million

7) Assessing infection risk in healthcare workers
Dr Eleni Nastouli, University College London, £1.5 million

8) Monitoring disease resistance among children and teenagers
Professor Matthew Snape, Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford, £0.6 million

9) Tracking progress of the outbreak in Scotland
Professor Aziz Sheikh, University of Edinburgh, £0.5 million

10) Understanding how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and babies
Professor Christoph Lees and Dr Ed Mullins, Imperial College London, £0.3 million

Behaviour and policy research

11) Evaluating the impact of self-isolation on mental health
Professor Isabel Oliver, Public Health England, £0.4 million

12) Understanding measures to tackle the epidemic in China
Professor Jane Duckett, University of Glasgow, £0.3 million

13) Research tools, guidance and training for global health
Professor Trudie Lang, University of Oxford, £0.3 million

14) Analysing the UK response to the pandemic
Professor Sally Sheard, University of Liverpool, and Dr Nina Gobat, University of Oxford, £0.3 million

15) Repurposing a public health website to reduce spread of coronavirus
Professor Lucy Yardley, University of Southampton and University of Bristol, £0.2 million


16) Investigating how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive in air and on different surfaces
Allan Bennett, Public Health England, £0.3 million

17) Identifying crucial enzymes for virus spread
Dr Sumana Sanyal, University of Oxford, £0.2 million

Transmission and mathematical modelling

18) Real-time forecasting and scenario analyses to help control COVID-19
Dr John Edmunds, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, £0.5 million

19) Evaluating the role of delivery workers and supply chains in preventing disease spread
Professor Martie van Tongeren, University of Manchester, £0.3 million

20) Modelling disease spread and movement to assess control strategies
Dr Leon Danon, University of Exeter, £0.2 million

21) Building models using multiple datasets to understand the severity of the epidemic
Dr Anne Presanis, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, £0.2 million

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