Pandemic institute launched with gift from antigen test maker

Institute in Liverpool will involve universities, hospital and local authorities in ‘holistic’ research on pandemics

September 13, 2021
Source: iStock

A new institute dedicated to pandemic research is being set up in the city of Liverpool following a £10 million gift from the world’s largest manufacturer of rapid antigen tests for Covid-19.

The Pandemic Institute involves an alliance among three higher education institutions, a hospital and the city council in a bid to take a “holistic” view on tackling pandemics.

Liverpool itself has hosted major community research projects during the Covid-19 pandemic, including an early pilot to see if mass antigen testing could halt the spread of the disease.

The institute will draw on clinical, academic, public health and data-driven expertise from its partners and be located in the health and life sciences section of the city’s Knowledge Quarter innovation district.

It is being initially funded by a £10 million gift from Innova Medical Group, the world’s biggest manufacturer of lateral flow test kits and a supplier of hundreds of millions of tests to the UK government as part of contracts reported by the Financial Times to be worth more than £3 billion.

Lateral flow tests, which are used to detect whether someone is likely to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, have faced questions over their ability to find cases compared with “gold-standard” PCR tests. The company’s tests have been approved for use in the UK and other parts of Europe but not in the US.

Matthew Baylis, chair of veterinary epidemiology at the University of Liverpool and the Pandemic Institute’s new director, said that the new institute would have “the potential to help revolutionise how the world responds to pandemics”.

“Uniquely, it will take a holistic view, from looking at future threats through to the response of communities and the healthcare system as well as treatments such as medicines and vaccines. 

“Liverpool is perfectly placed to be the home for the Pandemic Institute – building on the foundations laid so far in the city, and its significant contributions in this field, Liverpool is a global city with expertise in many fields relevant to pandemics, including medical, tropical and veterinary research.”

Daniel Elliott, the president of Innova Medical Group, said: “Innova is committed to improving pandemic outcomes globally and we were attracted to Liverpool after being impressed by the unparalleled number of large-scale pilot research programmes and the guidance on global public health policy that Liverpool provided during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The move comes after University and College Union members at Liverpool went on strike in a dispute over job cuts in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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