COVID-19: our research pipeline

COVID-19 research pipeline

LSTM has a central role in the response to COVID-19 and has partnered with multiple institutions and industrial organisations to target the virus from several angles across the whole research pipeline, from the development and validation of effective diagnostics to the discovery of new treatments and vaccines.

The Liverpool City Region has the largest concentration of infectious diseases research in the UK and has focused and mobilised its resources to address COVID-19 fast and effectively. Additionally, Liverpool has over 25 laboratories that operate to Category Level 3 (CL3) standard, the level needed to handle the COVID-19 virus safely, which is the highest concentration of CL3 laboratories in an academic setting in the UK.

LSTM’s vision is to translate its research findings into practical benefits for people and this is ultimately how, as an institute, it is responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Research pipeline – Discovery

Clinical Characterisation and Biobanking

The University of Liverpool hosts the UK’s COVID-19 biobank, supported by awards from Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health and Social Care, National Institute for Health Research (DHSC NIHR), working in collaboration with International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) on its ISARIC-4C study. The University of Liverpool is curating the UK’s biobank of samples from patients with COVID-19, which will be available to researchers all over the country.

Viral Dynamics and Protective Immunity

A community-based project is being developed to study viral transmission, determinants of protective immunity, potential for re-infection, and behavioural determinants of transmission. We are also studying the role of cellular immune responses in severe COVID-19, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.

Therapeutics, Early Phase Clinical Trials and Pharmacokinetics-Pharmacodynamics

Hollow fibre infection models are being progressed to assess new antiviral compounds. Clinical protocols are in development to test experimental therapies for COVID-19. Clinical trials are supported by Good Clinical Practice (GCP) bioanalytical capabilites and PK-PD modelling. Prescribing resources to support clinical trials of experimental COVID therapies have also been developed.

Pathogen Biology

Researchers can grow and store SARS-CoV-2 for experimental studies. Real-time sequencing enables rapid contact tracing, assessment as to whether SARS-CoV-2 is evolving and whether the sequence has an impact on the severity of disease, developing a better understanding of host risk factors for acquiring the virus and advancing to severe disease.

Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics

Combined Intelligence for Public Health Action (CIPHA) and the Liverpool City Region Civic Data Cooperative are developing innovative control measures such as smart social distancing and symptom monitoring. Clinical epidemiology projects include transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among healthcare workers and psychological resilience interventions for health and social care workers.

Vaccines

Liverpool’s expertise in vaccines is being deployed to develop and test new vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 based on technology recently established to make a Zika vaccine.

Knowledge Mobilisation, Public and Community Involvement

Social science research is focussing on the well-being of healthcare workers and the general public; understanding how individuals, communities and health care systems perceive risk. We're developing effective communication strategies for public and policy understanding of disease transmission and prevention, supporting the development of resilient populations and wider socio-economic systems.