COVID-19: Scientific institute to fight future pandemics launches - and could see vaccines developed months earlier

Monday 13th September 2021 00:45 BST

The Pandemic Institute, headquartered in Liverpool, will offer world-leading clinical and research expertise across all stages of the pandemic lifecycle.

"Really significant pandemics may be 100 years apart but we're facing challenges much more regularly than that," explained the institute's director, Professor Matthew Bayliss.

"This pandemic has shown us that we have to prepare in a way that we've never prepared before. This is a wake-up call for the world," he said.

Three coronaviruses have emerged in the last 20 years - something that has never been seen before - and we should be prepared for more "clinically significant" viruses to appear in future, Prof Bayliss said.

His team brings together medical, academic and civic partnerships which can then translate work into policy, solutions and activity. He said this could help control the impact of outbreaks on governments, businesses and individuals across the world.

"We certainly can't predict exactly when the next pandemic will start, but we can make real in-roads into identifying what it's likely to look like, for example, from which animals we might expect pandemic pathogens to spill over into humans, where that's most likely to occur," he said.

"It's common sense to think that we may see more coronaviruses emerge, but also we haven't lost sight of influenza. We've also had Ebola and Zika."

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Professor Daniela Ferreira, head of clinic sciences at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, leads the response domain of the Pandemic Institute. She explained that much of the work will involve working to speed up the response process.

"Ideally what we want to see in 10 years from now, is that in the event of a pandemic, we would have a cabinet full of drugs and vaccines for several different viruses that we could pull off the shelf, run through the platform for rapid screening and very rapidly - I would say three to six months earlier than what we had this time. It would be transformative," she told Sky News.

Initially funded by a £10m gift from Innova Medical Group, provider of rapid antigen tests, the Pandemic Institute is located in The Spine in Liverpool's Paddington Village.

Innova's chief executive Daniel Elliott said he has been "impressed by the unparalleled amount of large-scale pilot research programmes and the guidance on global public health policy that Liverpool provided during the COVID-19 pandemic".

Last year, Liverpool became the first city globally to undertake a city-wide smart asymptomatic COVID-19 testing pilot. It also ran a series of test events to assess whether parts of the economy were ready to reopen following nationwide lockdowns.

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