Liverpool launches new Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics

The University of Liverpool has today launched a new research centre for the development of revolutionary long-acting medicines that could transform the prevention and treatment of many diseases across the globe.

Established as part of a £30.5 million ($40m) international research consortium, primarily funded by Unitaid, the Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT) will be the first of its kind in the world.

By repurposing existing medicines into slow-release formulations, where drug effectiveness can be sustained over several months, ‘long-acting’ technology has already been successfully implemented in the fields of contraception and schizophrenia.

It now has the potential to improve the outcomes for treatment and prevention for numerous healthcare needs and has a considerable programme on infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, Hepatitis C and tuberculosis, which particularly impact low- and middle-income countries. In the last year, the researchers have also been investigating applications for COVID-19.

Combining world-leading research from the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and Faculty of Science and Engineering, CELT aims to broaden the knowledge of long-acting medicines in order to change the way both chronic and acute diseases are treated on a global scale.

Working with global partners, CELT scientists from the fields of materials chemistry and pharmacology will develop innovative interventions to treat critical global health problems and engage with patients and healthcare providers to better understand how long-acting drug delivery can be used most effectively.

Work within the centre is already well underway to develop long-acting formulations for malaria and TB prevention, as well as a single-injection cure for hepatitis C as part of the LONGEVITY project. Several other projects are ongoing, which focus upon understanding the pharmacological opportunities for oral, injectable, implantable and transdermal long-acting approaches.

CELT is co-directed by pharmacologist Professor Andrew Owen and materials chemist Professor Steve Rannard at the University of Liverpool.

Professor Andrew Owen said: “Long-acting drug delivery promises to transform patient management across indications, with huge potential impact for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Benefits for efficacy flow from overcoming issues associated with patients sometimes not taking their medication, which may also help reduce emergence of antimicrobial resistance. CELT harnesses the power of local, national and international collaboration to accelerate understanding of the medicines of the future.”

Professor Steve Rannard added: “CELT offers the integration of new materials chemistry with leading pharmacological evaluation of efficacy and safety. As such, we aim to produce novel opportunities that are embedded in the foundation of clinical relevance and multidisciplinary mechanistic understanding, accelerate the translation to deliverable patient benefits and further the global understanding of long-acting therapeutics.”

Unitaid’s Executive Director Dr Philippe Duneton said: “Decades ago, long-acting products revolutionised fields such as schizophrenia and contraception. Today, our goal is to apply similar innovation to bolster global efforts to tackle – and even eliminate – major diseases affecting low- and middle-income countries, including HIV/AIDS. The pipeline of new long-acting products is promising. As a funder of catalytic health interventions, we are excited and inspired to be supporting the University of Liverpool, and other partners, that are blazing a trail in that regard.”

To find out more please visit the new CELT website. You can also follow the centre on Twitter and Facebook.