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LifeArc invests £2m in University of Edinburgh STOPCOVID initiative


LifeArc has invested £2m in the University of Edinburgh’s STOPCOVID project. The funding will enable 150 scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Inflammation Research to be deployed to work on a project that aims to test existing and experimental drugs to find a treatment for COVID-19.

At present there are no clinically proven therapies for COVID-19. Repurposing medicines for other conditions that are already in clinical use or are currently being tested, could lead to the discovery and use of new therapies before a vaccine becomes widely available.

STOPCOVID will focus on the inflammatory pathways that lead directly to lung injury, which is associated with the most severe aspects of COVID-19. Excessive inflammation can cause the lungs to fail, leading to death. Researchers will test drugs to see if they can block this and other damaging types of inflammation in the early stages of the disease to change the course of infection and prevent the need of a ventilator. This approach could potentially have a beneficial impact on millions of people who are affected worldwide and could provide a significant boost for low- and middle-income countries where people do not have access to intensive care and ventilation facilities.

Professor Kev Dhaliwal, STOPCOVID lead and Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “COVID-19 is the biggest global challenge of a generation.

“ By rapidly testing therapies that stop the inflammatory cascade associated with the most severe aspect of the disease – leading ultimately to respiratory failure – we can urgently discover ways to prevent the need for a ventilator. We must unite together, across sectors, across disciplines, across continents to tackle the devastating effects of this virus as fast as possible. ”

Funding for the project will cover trial and clinical costs, data analyses and scaling up testing of drugs that show promise. The team is collaborating with pharmaceutical companies from across the world and have already identified key drugs and mechanisms that are currently in development or are being used for other diseases. By working closely with regulatory experts to ensure due diligence, any drugs that provide positive early results will be fast tracked into national and international clinical trials.

Dr Catriona Crombie, Associate Director, Technology Transfer, LifeArc, said: “ The work of Professor Dhaliwal and his team aligns to LifeArc’s focus on translational medical research and accelerating the development of promising ideas that address patient need. We are pleased to support STOPCOVID and be part of the collective effort in the rapid and effective testing of any promising medicines that could potentially provide a treatment option for COVID-19 patients at this crucial period. ”

STOPCOVID will be based at Edinburgh BioQuarter, which will unite interdisciplinary scientists from the Centre for Inflammation Research, clinical research teams in NHS Lothian and University of Edinburgh, regulatory teams, and clinical trial networks. Such proximity will allow close and immediate collaboration, while drug manufacturing facilities on site will allow for quick testing of potential treatments.

The project aims to attract a total of £15 million in funding from the private sector and discussions are continuing with a number of other potential partners.