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UKRI and NIHR invest £8.4m in Covid-19 immunity research

Funders hope studies will lead to improved treatments as well as vaccines and therapies

UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research have announced a joint £8.4 million investment in three studies investigating major unanswered questions related to coronavirus immunity.

Announced on 28 August, the studies aim to develop better tests for immunity, to study the body’s immune response to the virus, and to find out why some people suffer from severe symptoms while others have mild or asymptomatic infections but can still transmit the virus. Scientists will also look at when and how immunity persists and whether people can become re-infected.

Led by the University of Birmingham, the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium will receive £6.5m to investigate key questions such as how long Covid-19 immunity lasts, why some people’s immune systems are better able to fight off the virus, and why some immune responses cause damage.

The Humoral Immune Correlates of Covid-19 consortium, led by the University of Cambridge and Royal Papworth Hospital, will get £1.5m to study molecules produced by the immune system to fight infection. A third study led by the University of Edinburgh will receive £394,000 to investigate key features of fatal Covid-19 and the impact the virus has on the lungs and other vital organs.

“Understanding how our immune systems respond to Covid-19 is key to solving some of the important questions about this new disease, including whether those who have had the disease develop immunity and how long this lasts, and why some are more severely affected,” said Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer for England and head of the NIHR.