University’s COVID-19 Campaign gives £100K funding boost to vital research projects

The University of Liverpool’s ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response Campaign’ has provided £100K for several vital research projects into the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact.

The current COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented global challenge, and one for which University of Liverpool researchers, working at the forefront of innovation and discovery are striving to find a global solution.

In response to this challenge the University established the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Research Fund’ in April this this year to raise urgently-needed funding to help support the University’s COVID-19 research programme and to provide support for students facing financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Donations from alumni and friends of the University to the fundraising campaign have resulted in £100K being allocated to nine research projects from across the University.

Research projects

Calum Semple, Professor in Child Health and Outbreak Medicine, will lead on a study into the characterisation protocol for severe and emerging infections that will help the existing pandemic preparedness infrastructure and help the scientific response to pandemics in the future

• Patients recovering from COVID-19 following infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2 report a persistent, debilitating fatigue, reminiscent of other viral infections which bears considerable resemblance to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). A study will be piloted by Anne McArdle, Professor in Musculoskeletal Biology, with a view to develop and optimise treatments for this fatigue

Professor Benito Giordano, Senior Lecturer in Innovation Management, will conduct a study on the economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses within the Liverpool City Region. The research will critically examine the impact incurred amongst the enterprise base of region and demonstrate whether different opportunities will open-up in new ways to include those often hard to reach groups, such as young people, women, the BAME community and in those communities were the majority of households are on low incomes

• Many patients with COVID-19 suffer from and die of blood clots, which is also called thrombosis. Blood tests have also shown that COVID-19 causes cells to become damaged and that the body is inflamed. When blood vessels become inflamed, they form blood clots. Damaged cells cause inside-out release of a protein that is very toxic to other cells and is called histones. Cheng-Hock Toh, Professor of Clinical Infection, Microbiology and Immunology, aims to shed light on the complex relationship between COVID-19 and histones, uncovering exactly how they work together. By understanding more about the relationship, it may be possible to target the processes improve current treatments

Professor Alistair Darby, Co-Director of the University’s Centre for Genomic Research, will be studying how COVID-19 affects different types of cells in the lung will in different ways. This research aims to provide an insight into interventions to stop virus replication and spread but also the potential to understand how the damage caused by the virus can be repaired or treated

• COVID-19 has infected hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and millions worldwide. The scale of the pandemic has brought an urgent need to understand the immune response to this emerging virus. Efforts to verify diagnostics have revealed potential complications because of seasonal circulation of other coronaviruses. To understand the immune response to COVID-19 Krishanthi Subramaniam, Research Associate at Institute of Global Health, will be conducting a study to better understand immunity in symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

• When doctors perform a clinical trial the tools they use to decide which treatment works best are called ‘outcome measures’. The clinical trial regulators insist pneumonia trials include a ‘patient related outcome measure’ (PROM) such as how a treatment affects patients’ symptoms from their own perspective. Doctors’ assessments of patients’ symptoms rarely agree with the views of the patient. Dr Dan Wootton, Senior Fellow in Infection and Honorary Consultant Respiratory Physician, will be developing a tool to better record the effect of COVID-19 clinical trials on patients from their own perspective

• The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern medicine and where approximately 20% of those infected develop severe disease requiring hospitalisation. Although age and comorbidities associate with disease severity many younger people develop serious disease with unknown consequences regarding their future health. Dr Georgios Pollakis, Senior research Fellow in Clinical Infection, Microbiology and Immunology, will be developing new tools to decipher the the interactions between the COVID-19 virus and the immune system. Better understanding these aspects will provide powerful insights into the disease process and where future interventions should be targeted or not

Jon Cole, Professor of Psychology and founder of the Tactical Decision-Making Research Group, will be conducting a study to examine the potential long-term consequences of COVID-19 on the mental health off health and social care workers due to possible embitterment about what happened during the pandemic response. If not identified and dealt with now there may be serious long-term health and social consequences for staff who have experienced moral injury

‘Enormous generosity’

Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our fund as these vital projects would not have been possible without their enormous generosity.

“The University has placed itself at the forefront of addressing the global COVID-19 pandemic. With the assistance of our students, staff, alumni and friends we will continue to help develop solutions for the wide range of problems caused by COVID-19.”

Professor William Hope, the Dame Sally Davies Chair of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Director of The Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research, University of Liverpool, said: “I am delighted to see these projects receiving funding from University’s ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response Campaign’.

“COVID-19 is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes. These research projects will provide a vital insight into the health and social implications of the pandemic – and contribute to the global efforts to tackle and mitigate the impact of it.”

For more information about the campaign and how you can support it, visit the campaign page