iiCON and LSTM recognised at BioNow Awards

News article 4 Apr 2022
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The BioNow Award winners

iiCON: Infection Innovation Consortium and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) have been recognised at the BioNow Awards, receiving the award for Outstanding Contribution and the AMR Award.

BioNow, a not-for-profit membership organisation, supports the biomedical, pharma and life sciences sectors across the North of England. Its annual awards celebrate excellence and innovation in the region’s biomedical, pharma and life sciences sectors.

iiCON’s founding Director and former Director of LSTM Professor Janet Hemingway CBE was presented with the Outstanding Contribution Award at the ceremony in Manchester on March 31st.  The award, which is specially selected by an independent judging panel, is sponsored by Sci-Tech Daresbury and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and recognised Professor Hemingway’s significant contribution to health and life sciences in the region.

Professor Hemingway has played a remarkable role in the growth of the North West’s life sciences sector. A distinguished infectious disease specialist, she was the youngest woman to become a professor in the UK and is a global leader in her field. While serving as Director of LSTM between 2001 and 2019, Professor Hemingway oversaw a period of exceptional organisational growth, and 2020 she became the founding Director of iiCON, a collaborative £174 million R&D programme that is establishing a leading global centre for infectious disease R&D within the North West of England.

LSTM’s community-based sample collection Swab and Send programme, which is led by Dr Adam Roberts, was recognised with the AMR Award, sponsored by Infex Therapeutics.  Swab and Send started in 2015 as small scale, citizen-science, crowd-funded project, engaging members of the public, schools and other social groups with swabbing anything in their environment and returning the swabs to LSTM’s laboratories.  Since launching, the highly successful programme has enabled LSTM to develop a huge unique library of tens of thousands of microbes which have never been screened for the production of antimicrobials.

Swab and Send also forms the foundation of one of the world’s most diverse, novel Natural Product Libraries, which is being expanded and developed by LSTM as part of iiCON’s offering to industry. Through iiCON, companies will be able to use the library to kickstart antimicrobial discovery. The Natural Product Library will help to shape the next generation of transformative novel antimicrobial products and therapies by providing industry with access to this vast untapped pool of thousands of novel environmental microbes.

Professor Hemingway said: “The North has outstanding capability across biomedical, pharma and life sciences and it’s wonderful to be celebrating the industry’s ongoing success and growth. It’s my privilege to have had the opportunity to work alongside a talented and committed community of colleagues across academia, industry, and the public sector to support the development of this dynamic sector.

“As the Infection Innovation Consortium, we are working collaboratively to build on this capability and establish the North West as the leading global destination for infectious disease R&D. This will generate hundreds of high-value jobs, engage and enrich local communities, and attract c£1 billion more investment per year in the area over the next decade. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with partners across the region as we bring this vision to fruition.”

Dr Adam Roberts, Reader, Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and Resistance at LSTM, said: “We’re delighted to see Swab and Send recognised with this award. Raising awareness of antimicrobial resistance and the global threat it poses is critical the response to our programme has really been phenomenal.

“Through Swab and Send our team has delivered multiple innovative engagements and projects with the local community and nationally to raise awareness of AMR and how valuable antibiotics are to our society.

“Through iiCON, this huge library of novel isolates is being expanded and we see it playing a key role in the development of the antimicrobials of the future.”

iiCON is a global collaborative infectious disease R&D programme established in 2020. Founded with government funding provided through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund, it brings together industry, academia, and the NHS in a concerted effort with a clear aim: to combat the growing global threat posed by infectious diseases and save lives through collaborative innovation.

Led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, consortium partners Unilever, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, Evotec, and Infex Therapeutics are working on number of innovative and ambitious programmes across iiCON’s ten specialist research platforms.