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Pandemic research team to develop lung disease drugs

A multi-million pound research programme aims to tackle lung infections and future pandemics.

Two scientists in the lab
Scientists will use translational genomics and experimental medicine methods to speed up drug discovery.

A research programme is getting under way to develop treatments for lung infections and to prepare for future pandemics.

The initiative has been announced at the University of Edinburgh with support from investment manager company Baillie Gifford.

The Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub will use clues from the human genome to identify and rapidly test new treatments.

It will also use experimental medicine methods to quickly evaluate and develop drugs for lung inflammation and injury caused by infection.

The hub will combine the ability to determine a person’s genetic predisposition to lung injury with advanced interventional robotics for drug delivery, sensing and sampling technologies, and clinical trial design.

Baillie Gifford is supporting the launch with a £14.7 million donation. The University aims to secure a total of £100m investment to accelerate discoveries to drive treatments, partnerships and translational opportunities with academic organisations, industry and other collaborators worldwide.

Patient focus

The hub will bring together expertise from two large experimental medicine consortiums led by the University, known as GenOMICC and STOPCOVID, with a focus on critical care patients.

GenOMICC, led by scientists from the Roslin Institute, has found 17 genes underlying severe Covid-19, leading to new drug treatments which can reduce the likelihood of death from Covid-19 infection.

STOPCOVID has established pathways for testing therapies in patients alongside accelerating technologies for delivering and measuring drugs in human lungs.

To quicken the discovery of new treatments, the team will deliver microdoses of multiple medicines to key areas of patients’ lungs and observe whether the drugs work on their own or in combination.

Faster drug development

The constant risk of respiratory viruses, combined with the emergence of antibiotic resistance in respiratory diseases, means a radical new approach to streamlining drug development and evaluation is needed.

To deliver this vision the hub will harness the expertise of the University’s leading data scientists, roboticists, engineers, chemists, biologists, regulatory experts, drug developers, toxicologists, translational managers and clinicians.

The generous donation from Baillie Gifford enables us to build on recent advances in genomics, computing, engineering and experimental medicine – all major strengths at Edinburgh – to speed up the process of drug development, so that we’ll be able to find targeted therapies more quickly for new, and old, diseases. The hub will use clues from human genetics to develop new drugs, and then build technologies to rapidly test those drugs in critically ill patients.

Professor Kenneth Baillie, GenOMICC’s chief investigator and Professor of Experimental MedicineRoslin Institute and Centre for inflammation Research

We have been genuinely excited to see the results of the GenOMICC and STOPCOVID projects and our investment aims to accelerate these programmes. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on how vulnerable the world is to this type of virulent viral infection. Our aim is to contribute towards better preparedness for new Covid-19 variants and other pandemics in the future. We see great opportunity in the innovative approaches taken by the University of Edinburgh.

Mark Urquhart, partner at Baillie Gifford

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

Related links

Roslin Covid-19 research