The Strength in Places Fund, from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has, overall, awarded £416m to 7 schemes across the country with the aim of supporting, cutting edge research and innovation and creating thousands of jobs.
In addition to backing research into treatments for infectious diseases, other projects supported through the Strength in Places Fund include, research into electric and autonomous vehicles, zero-emissions technology for seafaring vessels, and smart-packaging to reduce food waste.
The government is offering £186m investment backed by an additional £230m from the private sector and research institutions. The programmes will bring long-term economic benefits in every part of the country, create new skills opportunities, thousands of jobs and encourage more competitive and future-proof industries, post-coronavirus.
The consortium, led by LSTM, is made up of the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the AMR Centre and Evotec (both based at Alderley Park, Cheshire) Unilever UK, and the University of Liverpool. Funding will reach over a five-year period and will deliver an innovative plan delivering integrated therapeutic solutions for infections in humans.
The project will fast-track economic and local productivity by creating eight, commercially-sustainable, specialist research platforms for disease therapeutics that will transform the efficiency of development, evaluation of new product discovery and impact assessment.
News of the announcement comes weeks after one of Merseyside’s principal regeneration experts, Professor Michael Parkinson, said that the local knowledge sector could be the driver of post-coronavirus city region economy.
Project lead, LSTM’s Professor Janet Hemingway, said, “LSTM devised this programme, together with our industrial, NHS and academic partners aiming to be the first choice globally for infection research and development initiatives. This grant secures the international reputation of the region in infection innovation and will attract substantive follow-on international investment.”
Investment in diagnostic tech at LSTM, introduced as a response to the antibiotic resistance crisis, have been adapted rapidly to offer validated diagnostics to meet the needs of the coronavirus outbreak.
This has allowed Liverpool to become a test bed for new diagnostic development technology and evaluation trials for the virus. LSTM has been central to the validation of lab based coronavirus anti-body and rapid diagnostic tests alongside multiple commercial and academic partners.
Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, added, “The need to develop new treatments for infectious diseases has never been clearer, so this funding is fantastic news. This new approach to public R&D investment aims to boost local economic growth by building on world-class research and innovation capacity. This grant recognises the region’s existing strengths in this area and has already generated guarantees of around £90m for pilot projects eager to use the new platforms. There is great potential for high-quality jobs and economic value for the Liverpool city region and beyond.”
Liverpool has an amazing track record in respiratory vaccinology and disease prevention and the Liverpool city region, Cheshire and Warrington have the largest concentration of infectious disease research in the UK.