Liverpool-led partnership advances COVID-19 treatments

6th July 2021

A new experimental model that accurately replicates the impact of respiratory infections on the lungs and upper airways has been developed by a Liverpool-led partnership between academics and business.

Professor Janet Hemingway

This latest innovation that could increase the effectiveness of treatments for COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. It has been led by the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) whose founding director is Professor Janet Hemingway of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).

iiCON bridges the gap in the infection innovation ecosystem between industry, academia, and the NHS to accelerate and support the discovery and development of innovative new anti-infectives.

The consortium proactively identifies and engages with the most innovative companies working in the sector globally. iiCON forges long-term collaborative relationships with these organisations and facilitates partnerships that accelerate and enable research and product development.

Through iiCON-supported innovation brokerage, a new collaborative partnership was formed between investigators based at LSTM and Newcells Biotech, a Newcastle based provider of in vitro models supporting the BioPharma industry in pre-clinical drug discovery.

The partnership established and validated an experimental lung and upper airways organoid SARS-Cov-2 infection model. The model replicates the physiology of respiratory infections, including coronavirus, more closely and is part of a broader diverse range of research and innovation initiatives led by iiCON.

Current management of COVID-19 is supportive, and respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome is the leading cause of mortality. In view of this, there is an urgent and currently unmet need for model systems that can function as high-throughput preclinical tools for the development of novel, effective therapies.

Prof Hemingway said: “iiCON worked closely with Newcells Biotech to support the development of this cutting-edge new model – which creates a replicable model that will support the development of new therapeutics for key respiratory infections.

“This study is a brilliant example of the co-innovation and collaboration that iiCON is working to embed to support the creation of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics that will help to tackle future pandemics, combat resistant infections, and ultimately, lessen the global burden of disease.”

The iiCON consortium comprises LSTM, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Unilever UK, the University of Liverpool, Infex Therapeutics, and Evotec at Alderley Park, Cheshire.

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