A pandemic science center will develop drugs for lung infections such as Covid-19

A new pandemic science hub is being created to develop treatments for lung infections such as Covid-19.

The University of Edinburgh center will use translational genomics – tracking clues in the human genome to rapidly identify and test new treatments – as well as experimental medicine methods to rapidly assess and develop drugs for lung inflammation and lesions caused by infection.

Independent investment partnership Baillie Gifford is supporting the launch with a philanthropic donation of £14.7m and the university is aiming to secure a total investment of £100m.

In addition to accelerating the discovery of treatments for Covid-19 and other human lung diseases, the Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub aims to help prepare for future pandemics.

The hub will draw on the expertise of scientists from many disciplines (University of Edinburgh/PA)

It will build on the success of GenOMICC and STOPCOVID, experimental medicine projects led by Professors Kenneth Baillie and Kev Dhaliwal respectively.

Professor Baillie, GenOMICC Chief Investigator and Professor of Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Baillie Gifford’s generous gift allows us to build on recent advances in genomics, computing, engineering and experimental medicine. – all major forces in Edinburgh – to speed up the drug development process, so we can find targeted therapies for diseases new and old more quickly.

“The hub will use clues from human genetics to develop new drugs, and then develop technologies to rapidly test those drugs in critically ill patients.”

GenOMICC is a global research study that aims to understand the genetic factors that alter the outcomes of serious diseases.

At the start of the pandemic, its researchers discovered the first human gene to have led to a new drug treatment for infectious diseases or serious illnesses.

Based on human genetic data from patients with Covid-19, they predicted that the drug baricitinib would be an effective treatment.

This finding, combined with other evidence, led to the decision to add the drug to the RECOVERY trial, which recently reported that baricitinib is effective in reducing deaths from severe Covid-19.

STOPCOVID began in the early stages of the pandemic and quickly established avenues of experimental medicine to test therapies in patients, alongside accelerating technologies for delivering and measuring drugs in human lungs.

It was funded by LifeArc and Baillie Gifford

The cluster will bring together the expertise of the two projects.

Innovation and team science are at the heart of this new push that will boost the capabilities of experimental medicine

Professor Kev Dhaliwal

To accelerate the discovery of new treatments, the team will deliver microdoses of several drugs to key areas of patients’ lungs and observe whether the drugs work alone or in combination.

Scientists said the continued risk of respiratory viruses, combined with the emergence of antibiotic resistance in respiratory disease, means a radical new approach to streamlining drug development and evaluation is needed.

To realize this vision, the hub will draw on the expertise of data scientists, roboticists, engineers, chemists, biologists, regulatory experts, drug developers, toxicologists, clinicians and others from around the world. ‘university.

Professor Dhaliwal, Head of STOPCOVID and Professor of Molecular Imaging and Health Technology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Innovation and team science are at the heart of this new push which will make a leap in experimental medicine capabilities.

“Merging disciplines in a translation-driven environment to accelerate lung inflammation therapies and approaches is a major challenge and we are delighted to be supported by Baillie Gifford to establish this hub and also recruit leaders from around the world. .”

Mark Urquhart, Partner at Baillie Gifford, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the world’s vulnerability to this type of virulent viral infection.

“Our goal is to contribute to better preparedness for new variants of Covid-19 and other pandemics in the future.”

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