Imperial College in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Professor Shattock leads the COVID-19 vaccine project

As one of the top research institutions in the world, it is hardly surprising that Imperial would find itself at the forefront of the research being done to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. From our immunologists to our public health doctors and professors, everyone has been pivotal in aiding the government make scientifically informed decisions. Here, we will take a closer look at the various ways Imperial and its people have been involved in aiding the abating of the virus.

Firstly, three different Imperial research teams have secured additional funding from the UK Medical Research Council for their projects. The first of the projects, led by Professor Richard Tedder from the Department of Infectious Disease, hopes to create a COVID-19 antibody ‘spit test’, which will be able to identify people who have had the virus. Speaking to the College, Professor Tedder explained that, “A test such as ours, which can use oral fluid, will enable easy sampling of large numbers of people. This could dramatically speed up ascertaining the level of infection in a population.” He went on to explain that this test may also be beneficial in vaccine studies as “highly reactive antibody swab can show which samples have the potential to be taken forward towards to help develop plasma-based treatments.”

The second project is focused on the effect of COVID-19 on pregnancy and child health and is led by Professor Christoph Lees and Dr Ed Mullins. The goal is to create a registry of women who have either been confirmed to have had COVID-19 or suspected to have had it from early pregnancy to after the delivery of the baby. This registry will then be available to healthcare professionals from across the country as well as many international centres to contribute data online. The last project given £1.8m of the funding is the COVID-19 vaccine group, led by Professor Robin Shattock, to continue the development of their RNA vaccine through the pre- clinical stages and early-stage clinical trials. The team, from the Department of Infectious Disease, has been testing their RNA vaccine on animals since early February with very promising results which show that the animals given the vaccine have produced antibodies against the virus. The current timeline means that clinical trials are expected to begin as early as June and definitive results could be ready by September.

With many clinicians coming out of retirement to join the force again, and many others now working outside their specialty it became pivotal to find a tool to train them on the use of ventilators. Imperial College London, along with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Fundamental VR, has released a new online tool that allows clinicians to gain the knowledge they need for ventilating patients in just 30 minutes. The tool can be used at home or in real-time and it can now be accessed for free by any clinician internationally as well as here in the UK.

The College has also opened its undergraduate halls, Wilson House, to NHS volunteers who do not have a place to stay during this crisis. The halls, which are just a few minutes away from St Mary’s Hospital have also been opened to Imperial’s newly qualified medics as they join the frontline.

All in all, we here are the Gazette are extremely proud to be a part of Imperial College London and we wish all the research teams and doctors the best of luck! This article is based on materials provided by the UK Research and Innovation, the National Institute for Health Research, and articles published by Imperial College London. Further developments may have occurred since the writing of this article.

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