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Latest research updates

Queen’s University has a wealth of research expertise in respiratory disease, from understanding how viruses spread to how they affect our immune system as well as leading clinical trials and developing treatments and vaccines.

We are now harnessing this knowledge, applying our expertise and helping to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic across a range of health and clinical aspects.


Queen’s University awarded funding to conduct COVID-19 rapid testing trial

Queen’s has received funding to conduct a trial with the aim of developing a rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, that aims to show results within an hour. The test would enable clinicians to test for COVID-19 on site, eliminating the need to send tests to a centralised laboratory, saving time and resources.

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New study to identify highest risk factors for COVID-19

Scientists are calling on the public to sign up to a new study which will help identify who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and why some people become more ill than others with the disease.

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New Research highlights risk of 18,000 extra deaths in people with cancer due to the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 emergency could result in at least 20% more deaths over the next 12 months in people who have been newly diagnosed with cancer, according to a study involving Queen’s University Belfast with University College London and DATA-CAN.

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Researchers highlight the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer

New research from Queen’s, the University of Split, Croatia and King’s College London has shown that the response to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is significantly affecting the treatment and care of patients with cancer.

The collaborative research, recently published in the European Journal of Cancer, highlights how the repurposing of health systems and implementation of social distancing measures, including national lockdowns, have had negative effects on patients with cancer. These effects included delays in urgent referrals and patients having their cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy postponed, or surgery being delayed. 

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National clinical trial to treat hospitalised patients with COVID-19

A new clinical trial led by Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Warwick seeks to find alternatives to ventilators to treat patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

Researchers will deliver a clinical trial that aims to recruit approximately 4,000 patients in order to find effective alternative solutions for patients with COVID-19 to reduce the need for treatment with a ventilator and improve patient outcomes. 

A recent report estimated that 30% of Covid-19 hospitalised patients are likely to require mechanical ventilation.

The UK is facing a shortage of both equipment and trained staff to operate the ventilators and therefore it is crucial to find effective, alternative ways to treat patients.

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Leading cell therapy clinical trials to help improve outcomes in COVID-19 patients

Researchers at Queen’s are leading a UK-wide clinical trial, offering an innovative cell therapy treatment for COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure. 

This clinical trial, led by Professor Danny McAuley and Professor Cecilia O’Kane, will involve the use of MSCs, a type of cell derived from human tissue such as bone marrow or umbilical cord (which is otherwise discarded after the baby is born), to treat the injury to the lung caused by COVID 19. MSCs are a novel treatment that have been shown in experimental models to reduce inflammation, fight infection and improve the repair of injured tissue.

The trial has been identified by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a national urgent public health study. It is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

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New research alliance with Fusion Antibodies to seek therapeutic and diagnostic approaches 

The Northern Ireland Coronavirus Antibody Development Alliance (NICADA) aims to build upon Fusion Antibodies’ expertise in antibody and protein engineering to develop new therapeutic molecules that can be evaluated for their ability to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

Working with Professor Ultan Power in the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute of Experimental Medicine, Professor Chris Scott in The Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research and Dr Fuquan Lui in the School of Biological Sciences, at Queen’s University, Fusion Antibodies will prepare potential antibodies and engineer them specifically to neutralise the virus.

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Working to find a treatment through drug screening

Researchers at Queen’s have been awarded a grant of £295,626 in a bid to find a treatment for COVID-19.

The research project will see Professor Ultan Power and his team of researchers at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine infect models of human lungs with the virus that causes COVID-19. Then – working in collaboration with Ken Mills, Professor of Experimental Haematology at The Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research – they will test combinations of existing drugs for effectiveness against the virus and the inflammatory responses that it induces.

The funding grant has been awarded as one of a first round of projects that will receive £10.5 million as part of the £20 million rapid research response funded by UK Research and Innovation, and by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research.


Queen's plays key role in delivering COVID-19 testing

Queen’s has joined forces with Ulster University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to significantly increase the Department of Health’s capacity for diagnostic testing of the coronavirus. 

Testing is due to begin at AFBI’s laboratories in Stormont very shortly for an initial period of 12 weeks, closely supported by Queen’s and their combined expertise and equipment is expected to make a significant impact on testing capacity. It is hoped that in due course, the centre will be capable of conducting up to 1,000 tests per day.

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Our respiratory expertise

Our world class virology researchers have been working for many years on the biology of viruses, and the processes that lead to common lung illnesses, such as viral infection, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis and asthma.

Our medical experts are applying their distinctive knowledge in the field to work in cross-disciplinary research teams with clinical partners, all driven by the needs of patients and with the goal of translating discovery science into new and improved diagnostics, treatments and care.


What we know about COVID-19

SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, is brand new, so scientists are mobilising to understand it, while the world’s population remains immunologically immature to this virus. However, Queen’s researchers are learning lessons from years of studying similar lung diseases.

What makes COVID-19 so contagious? How and why is it killing people? These are just some of the big questions that the world is asking as lockdown and isolation efforts attempt to reduce the global spread of the disease. To try and better understand this new virus, Queen’s scientists are looking at what we can learn from similar diseases that affect the lungs.

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