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Government pledges £20m to fight deadly coronavirus

Image: Philip Pankhurst [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Geograph

Funding will go to three programmes to develop vaccines against the coronavirus

The government has pledged £20 million to develop vaccines to combat epidemics, such as the coronavirus that has infected over 14,000 people globally, including at least two people in the UK—one of them a student at the University of York (pictured).

This follows last week’s Wellcome Trust pledge up to £10 million for research on the coronavirus nCoV-2019 epidemic, and the World Health Organisation declaring the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The government funding will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global partnership launched in 2017 in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

It will be used to develop new vaccines for epidemics, including three programmes to develop vaccines against the coronavirus, the Department of Health and Social Care announced on 3 February.

The government added that it was also in “initial stages” of talks between the National Institute for Health Research, and UK Research and Innovation regarding plans to run a “rapid research call” in response to the virus.

“It’s paramount we invest in vital research about infectious diseases, keeping the UK at the forefront of modern-day science so we can share their knowledge globally,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.

The government also launched on 2 January public information campaign has been to advise the public on how to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“All of the advice is standard advice to stop respiratory infections,” said John Tregoning, reader in respiratory infections at Imperial College London. “The government is stressing it now because the new coronavirus can spread between people and increased awareness can reduce the spread.”

Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “The coronavirus spreads in a similar fashion to flu or even the common cold. Straightforward advice such as good hand-hygiene is important, as that cleans the viruses off people’s hands, and helps to reduce transmission.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations have both opened funding calls for research to develop treatments for the rapidly spreading virus, while dozens of funders have called for research findings and data related to the outbreak to be shared rapidly and openly.