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Working to find a treatment through drug screening

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

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.

Read more about how the research will be carried out below. 

Our two-pronged attack on COVID-19

A unique collaboration between our leading virologists and our haematology experts will see a series of existing drugs tested on lung tissue models infected with COVID-19 in a safe laboratory setting.

While there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, the world’s leading experts are racing to find a way to get ahead of the disease. At Queen’s, we are examining the role that existing drugs, which are already approved for patient use, might have when repurposed to help fight the disease.

Working with the COVID-19 virus

With reports that the virus that causes COVID-19 can remain on surfaces for days, how do our researchers working with the virus ensure that they and our facilities remain safe?

Following the announcement that Ultan Power, Professor of Molecular Virology at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, has been awarded a grant of £295,626 in a bid to find a treatment for COVID-19, plans are underway to transport the SARS-CoV2 virus to Queen’s laboratories.

The research project will see Professor Power and his team of researchers 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.

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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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How drug repurposing could be the key to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic

Vaccine development can take years, so in an effort to fast-track the search for a treatment for COVID-19, Queen’s scientists are examining how existing drugs might be repurposed.

Despite recent headlines suggesting a COVID-19 vaccine could be just months away, the reality is that developing and approving novel medicines is a lengthy process. However, a new research project at Queen’s promises to speed up the wait for a treatment by testing drugs already approved for human use for other diseases against the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

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How we’re screening 500,000 possible drug combinations against COVID-19

Thanks to our innovative drug screening and dispensing technology, Queen’s researchers have the capability to act quickly to test a large number of existing drugs for activity against SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 disease.

Following the announcement that Queen’s has been awarded a UK Research and Innovation/National Institute for Health Research grant of close to £300,000 to help find a treatment for COVID-19, our haematology experts in The Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research will be utilising the latest drug screening technology to select suitable anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs to test against the disease.

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Why a collaborative research culture is needed to address the COVID-19 challenge

With scientists around the world mobilised to use their skills to help fight COVID-19, institutional and international cooperation is key, says Queen’s leading haematologist Professor Ken Mills. Has the landscape of global research changed forever?

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