Major funding for Zika health protection research

Zika mosquito                     

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health has been awarded more than £500K as part of an initiative to help tackle the current Zika virus outbreak in the Americas.

The Zika Rapid Response Initiative is being funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Newton Fund and the Wellcome Trust. Four new research projects are being led by the University that will provide new insights into the nature of the risk posed by the Zika virus, and potential avenues for its management or prevention, over the next 12-18 months.

The projects involve collaboration with colleagues in affected countries and include investigating the link between Zika virus infection and neurological disease, improving diagnostics to test for the virus, and looking at the susceptibility of South American and European mosquito vectors to infection.

Rapid response

The work is being carried out as part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool, a collaboration between the University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Public Health England.

Two additional projects, led by HPRU members based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Manchester have also been awarded funding worth £300K as part of the initiative.

Professor Tom Solomon, Head of the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health and Director of the HPRU, said: “I have been impressed by the willingness of team members to focus their attentions to this urgent need to develop research which will help answer key unanswered questions around the Zika virus outbreak.

“The fact that more than one quarter of all the funding available was awarded to researchers involved with the HPRU shows our national and international role in conducting research to protect against emerging infections.”

High quality

The MRC-led Rapid Response received a total of 103 proposals and funding was awarded to 26 high quality projects with a combined value of £3.2m.

The Zika Rapid Response Initiative projects being led by HPRU members are:

  • A prospective case-control study to examine the role of Zika virus in Guillain-Barré syndrome in Brazil, led by Professor Tom Solomon, University of Liverpool
  • Zika: susceptibility of South American and European vectors to ZIKV infection, and influence of temperature, led by Professor Matthew Baylis, University of Liverpool
  • Improved diagnostics for Zika virus infection in South America through an established laboratory partnership between Brazil, Colombia and the UK, led by Dr Mike Griffiths, University of Liverpool
  • Investigating the link between Zika virus infection and neurological disease in ex vivo and in vivo models, led by Professor Lisa Ng, University of Liverpool
  • Zika: a safe recombinant vaccine with proof of efficacy in rodents, led by Dr Tom Blanchard, University of Manchester
  • Novel point-of-care molecular diagnostics for the simultaneous diagnosis of Zika, chikungunya and dengue infections in Latin America, led by Professor Luis Cuevas, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

For further details of the funding announcement please visit the MRC website.

Posted on: 23/03/2016