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UK Consortium Wins £6.5M From Government to Study SARS-CoV-2 Immune Response

NEW YORK – A UK-based team led by University of Birmingham scientists has won £6.5 million ($8.6 million) in funding from UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research for an omics study of immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The consortium brings together immunologists from 17 research institutions to investigate how long immunity from COVID-19 lasts; why some people's immune systems are better able to combat the virus; how the virus hides from the immune system; and whether immunity from previous infection with seasonal coronaviruses changes a COVID-19 patient's outcome, among other questions.

Consortium researchers will use samples and data from major UKRI- and NIHR-funded COVID-19 projects already underway, including ISARIC-4C, which aims to characterize and follow more than 75,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and the genomic studies COG-UK, which aims to sequence SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes, and GenOMICC, which is sequencing the genomes of individuals with COVID-19.

"Understanding the complexities of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 is key to successfully developing new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines against COVID-19," Paul Moss, a University of Birmingham researcher who is leading the consortium, said in a statement. "The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium will see the UK immunology community come together in an unprecedented way to answer questions that are crucial in helping us control this pandemic, such as how effective immunity is developed and why individuals respond differently to the disease."

The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium is one of three projects to receive a total of £8.4 million from UKRI and NIHR to study immune response to the novel coronavirus. Other projects receiving funding include the Human Immune Correlates of COVID-19 consortium (£1.5M), which will study humoral immune response to the virus by tracking immunity over 12 months in NHS workers and hospitalized patients, and a project titled "Inflammation in COVID-19: Exploration of Critical Aspects of Pathogenesis," or ICECAP (£394,000).