London University Switches Entire Research Focus to Tackle COVID-19

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The UK’s specialist medical school and healthcare sciences institution, St. George’s University of London, has dedicated its entire ongoing research output towards COVID-19. 

While other research on site has been paused, the University (which is integrated with St. George’s Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the country and best known as the filming location for the hit TV show 24 Hours in A&E) will remain open for researchers working on clinical trials and diagnostic tests for the disease, as well as those looking to understand the underlying biology of the virus and the body’s immune response.

The first trial led by SGUL to receive ethical approval is the collection of clinical samples from coronavirus-infected patients. These samples will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of rapid antibody-based diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Ethical approval means that the test is very close to being released into the NHS for general usage. The clinical samples collected from St George’s Hospital patients as part of this trial will also enable the University to carry out further investigations into the biology of coronavirus and how it can be treated.

Dr Tim Planche of the Institute of Infection & Immunity stated:

Without testing and samples, you’re fighting coronavirus blind. This study will enable the work of a taskforce at St George’s to tackle the disease, by giving all parts of the University quick access to samples in a national time of need.

We’ve got one shot at this, and by opening up our samples to be looked at by many people to evaluate the immune response, virus clearance and more, we can have the greatest impact.

As well as focusing on diagnostic tools, SGUL will be contributing to other studies to better understand the underlying biology and spread of the disease.

Professor Jon Friedland, Deputy Principal for Research at St. George’s, commented:

As a specialist health university with a major interest in infection and a strong history of successful translational research, we can see the impact COVID-19 is having on a national and global scale, so have taken the decision to switch our current research on site to focus on tackling this disease. Our aim is to improve treatments and outcomes for patients, with our experts developing better and faster diagnostic tests, evaluating drugs to treat the disease, and working towards understanding the both transmission of the virus and how the human immune system responds to it so vaccines can be developed.

St George’s research into COVID-19 builds on its established record of contributions to the control and eradication of diseases, from the historical development of vaccines with Edward Jenner to more contemporary efforts against meningitis and malaria.

Researchers at Southampton University are also doing their part in the fight against coronavirus; the lab of Professor Max Crispin is currently investigating the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine its pathological mechanisms and possible drug targets, while a team at University Hospital Southampton is trialling a respiratory drug to prevent the worsening of the virus’ effects

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