QUB awarded nearly £300k to find COVID-19 treatment

  • Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) have been awarded a grant of £295,626 in a bid to find a treatment for COVID-19.

    The research will screen drugs currently approved for human use to see whether they can be repurposed to fight COVID-19, either in killing the virus or dampening down the violent immune responses that cause lots of damage to the lung tissues.

    Lead researcher Ultan Power is a Professor of Molecular Virology at QUB.

    His long-spanning career has primarily focused on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of severe bronchiolitis in young infants and a major cause of severe lung disease in the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

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    He said: “The thousands of deaths caused by coronavirus have been as a result of how the virus attacks the respiratory system, both directly and through stimulating violent immune responses.

    “Our expertise in this area, coupled with the state-of-art models of lung tissue infection in my laboratory enable us to explore in detail how respiratory viruses cause disease.

    “Developing new drugs can take a long time and is very expensive. When facing a pandemic, it is crucial that we find treatment options as soon as possible."

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    Ken Mills, Professor of Experimental Haematology and collaborator on the study added: “This project arose from an innovative partnership using drug screening methodology used for leukaemia research combined with novel virology expertise and models.

    “The integration of these two approaches will provide unique new leads to combat the disease.”

    Prof Stuart Elborn, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences and lung infection expert said: “QUB has a wealth of research expertise in a range of viral diseases, from understanding how viruses spread to how they affect our immune system as well as leading clinical trials and developing treatments and vaccines.

    “We will harness this knowledge and apply our expertise and learning to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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    This grant is part of a first round of projects that will receive £10.5m in the £20m rapid research response funded by UK Research and Innovation and the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research.

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    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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