£20 million 'rapid response' for novel coronavirus research


 In a rapid research call announced today, £20 million has been made available for novel coronavirus research. The investment will ensure world-class UK academic and industry expertise can initiate new and additional research as quickly as possible.

UK researchers, working with international partners where appropriate, are being invited to submit proposals for projects to develop vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or address the epidemiology, spread or underpinning knowledge of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that emerged from Wuhan City, China.

Projects will contribute to the understanding, diagnosis, prevention and management of the virus, including the study of behaviours that may contribute to how it is spread and can be contained.

The initiative is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care, through the National Institute for Health Research and will coordinate with other funders and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The outbreak has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the WHO and confirmed cases in the UK were announced on Friday 31st January.

UK research teams have made vital contributions to the understanding of the virus and further research will be critical to mitigating the severity of the outbreak.

To support this, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Executive and Executive Chairs of UK Research and Innovation have agreed this £20 million joint rapid research response.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are working night and day to help contain the spread of Coronavirus. Researchers have a vital role to play in developing new vaccines and treatments.

“Today we’re putting an extra £20 million for an open call for research into Coronavirus. We want to hear from researchers working to understand, prevent and control this disease.”

Chief Medical Officer for England, and Co-lead for NIHR, Professor Chris Whitty said: "This call for research is an example of how the UK's health research sector can move swiftly to tackle issues of global importance. The National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation are launching this call together to ensure that every scientific avenue is explored. An important part of this call is research into possible vaccines for the novel coronavirus, prioritising those that have the potential to be developed rapidly.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Over 200 years ago we developed the first vaccine, helping eradicate smallpox completely from our shores. Today’s new funding will help our scientists build on that scientific heritage, giving them the tools they need to meet the new challenge of global infectious diseases - both now and in the future.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: “The UK’s world leading research capability is making a vital contribution to the understanding of this outbreak and the global effort to address it.

“To further support this, we are working with our partners to ensure new and additional research can be identified and initiated as quickly as possible.”

The rapid funding call will encompass two separate elements:

  • active intervention development.
  • diagnosis and understanding of 2019-nCoV.
  • The projects will run over a maximum 18-month period ensuring timely insights into the current epidemic with £20 million available for allocation to projects that will collectively contribute to our understanding, diagnosis, prevention and/or management of 2019-nCoV.

Full information is available here>>>

The Active intervention development part of the call will close for application at midday on February 13th.

The Diagnosing and understanding 2019-nCoV element will close at midday on February 27th.

The priorities for this second element may be further refined following the international research and innovation forum meeting convened by WHO on 11-12th February.

This research call is in addition to, and complementary to, the £20 million funding announced by the Health Secretary yesterday, which will go to CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations).

The call will contribute to the global response by actively collaborating with and being informed by the WHO’s Global Coordinating Mechanism (GCM) for R&D in epidemics, the Global Infectious Disease Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) and the CEPI. This call will also coordinate with the calls announced by Wellcome and the European Commission.

In addition to its participation in the joint call, the Medical Research Council (part of UKRI) has provided direct funding (£0.5 million each) to the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London and the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, both of which are already contributing valuable insights into the current outbreak.

To read more information, click here.

The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]