St George's, University of London focuses entire research on tackling coronavirus

St George's, University of London, the UK's specialist health university, is focusing all its ongoing research on tackling coronavirus (COVID-19).

While other research on site has been paused, the University 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 the University to receive ethical approval is the collection of clinical samples from COVID-19-infected patients. These samples will initially be used to evaluate a rapid antibody test designed to tell people if they have coronavirus or not.

This project will be led by Professor Sanjeev Krishna and Dr. Tim Planche from the Institute of Infection & Immunity at St George's, University of London. The test, being developed by the company Mologic, has received funding from The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and The Wellcome Trust. Achieving ethical approval for this trial brings the test even closer to being used across healthcare systems.

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 said:

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 diagnostics, the University will be contributing to other fields of research. Projects will include: being involved in national and international trials for potential treatments for COVID-19, understanding transmission in pregnant women and babies, understanding the biology of the disease, influencing policy on infection control, and developing guidance for clinicians.

Many of the trials will benefit from a joint approach between St George's, University of London and St George's University Hospitals. The trials of new treatments, which are being run by St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, have already started and patients are being recruited by University and Trust staff. Doctors and nurses at the hospital will be collaborating with researchers at the University to provide samples and data to enable a direct link from patients to research and research to patients. In particular, the Clinical Research Facility managed by St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is now almost completely focused on COVID-19 research.

Deputy Principal for Research at St George's, University of London, Professor Jon Friedland, said: "The whole University is mobilizing clinical, diagnostic and underlying scientific research so that we can help the effort against COVID-19. We want to send out the message that St George's is very much open to research on COVID-19, and we are welcoming collaborations with partners across industry and academia.

"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, University of London has a proud history of contributing to the control and eradication of diseases, from Edward Jenner's research into the first ever vaccine to current efforts against diseases such as meningitis and malaria. This medical and scientific expertise is now focused towards beating the current coronavirus pandemic.

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