A new pandemic research center is being set up to develop treatments for lung infections such as Covid-19.
Center at the University Edinburgh will use translational genomics – following clues from the human genome to detect and quickly test new treatments – along with experimental medicine techniques to quickly assess and develop drugs for pneumonia and damage caused by infection.
Baillie Gifford’s independent investment partnership supports the launch of a £ 14.7 million charitable donation, and the university is committed to providing a £ 100 million investment.
In addition to accelerating the discovery of treatments for Covid-19 and other human lung diseases, the Bailey Gifford Pandemic Science Center aims to prepare for future pandemics.
It will build on the success of the GenOMICC and STOPCOVID experimental medicine projects, led by Professors Kenneth Bailey and Keva Delival, respectively.
Professor Bailey, chief researcher at GenOMICC and professor of experimental medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Bailey Gifford’s generous donation allows us to build on the latest advances in genomics, computing, engineering and experimental medicine. so that we can quickly find targeted treatments for new and old diseases.
“The center will use clues from human genetics to develop new drugs and then create technology to quickly test these drugs in critically ill patients.”
GenOMICC is a global study that aims to understand the genetic factors that change the outcome of serious diseases.
At the start of the pandemic, its researchers discovered the first human gene that led to a new drug to treat infectious diseases or serious illnesses.
Based on the genetic data of patients with Covid-19, they predicted that the drug baricitinib would be an effective treatment.
This discovery, combined with other evidence, led to the decision to add the drug to the RECOVERY trial, which recently reported that baricitinib was effective in reducing mortality from severe Covid-19.
STOPCOVID began in the early stages of the pandemic and quickly established experimental medicine techniques to test therapies in patients along with accelerating drug delivery and measurement technologies in human lungs.
It was funded by LifeArc and Baillie Gifford
The hub combines the experience of both projects.
To expedite the discovery of new treatments, the team will deliver microdoses of multiple drugs to key areas of patients ’lungs and monitor whether the drugs work alone or in combination.
Scientists said the constant risk of respiratory viruses combined with the emergence of antibiotic resistance in respiratory diseases means that a radically new approach to streamlining drug development and evaluation is needed.
To realize this vision, the center will draw on the expertise of university data scientists, robots, engineers, chemists, biologists, regulatory experts, drug developers, toxicologists, clinicians and others.
Professor Dhaliwal, lead STOPCOVID and Professor of Molecular Imaging and Health Technology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Innovation and the science team are at the center of this new push that will make a leap in the capabilities of experimental medicine.
“Combining disciplines in a translational-oriented environment to accelerate therapy and approaches to pneumonia is a major challenge, and we are pleased that Bailey Gifford supports us to establish this center as well as recruit leaders from around the world.”
Mark Urhart, a partner at Baillie Gifford, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on how vulnerable the world is to this type of viral infection.
“Our goal is to contribute to better preparation for new versions of Covid-19 and other pandemics in the future.”