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King's team receives major £1m funding boost for COVID-19 research

A team led by Professor Michael Malim from the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences has received £1m funding for research into COVID-19.

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The grant from The Huo Family Foundation will further develop the team’s research into better understanding the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, harnessing this knowledge to create improved diagnostic testing, and developing novel immunotherapeutics.

The Huo Family Foundation will support a programme of work in these areas to inform approaches to patient treatment and provide guidance at local and national level on pressing issues of infection surveillance and control. This is the Huo Family Foundation’s first donation to King’s.

The multi-disciplinary team, which includes expertise in the immune system and virus-induced diseases, and the clinical diagnosis, management and treatment of infectious diseases, will work closely with NHS and academic partners to rapidly translate scientific breakthroughs to the frontlines of COVID-19 healthcare and infection control. This will enable the development of more accurate diagnostics, ensure information on immune response can be used to guide public health policy, and enable the creation of antibody-based therapies.

We are enormously grateful to The Huo Family Foundation for their generous and timely award. It will enable us to build on all the recent hard work of the team, and develop a sustainable programme of multi-disciplinary COVID-19 research focusing on patient and public benefit.– Professor Michael Malim, from the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences

The work so far includes the development of scalable antibody tests to track immunity to the virus and monitoring the human response in patients to understand why people respond differently to the COVID-19 infection. This work can inform clinical decisions about treatment for the critically ill.

The team have also set up an NHS-accredited COVID-19 diagnostic centre, recently renamed the June Almeida lab. June Almeida, a virologist and pioneer in virus imaging, discovered the first coronavirus in 1964 at the laboratory where she worked in St Thomas’ Hospital.

The laboratory is a close collaboration between Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, King’s College London and Viapath, a pathology provider, and has been set up temporarily to expand PCR-based COVID-19 testing. It will also be used for research into diagnostic techniques for SARS-CoV-2, as London and the UK develop approaches to future testing and infection control.

This funding award is essential for us to further develop novel research into COVID-19, expanding on our preliminary work, built on the effort of an incredible team of volunteers and goodwill. We look forward to contributing to the fight against COVID-19, supporting diagnostics and further disease understanding.– Dr Rocio Martinez-Nunez, from the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences

The Huo Family Foundation said: “The Huo Family Foundation is committed to supporting research into COVID-19 to inform a better understanding and therefore response to the virus. We appreciate the urgent nature of this research and are supporting several projects in this field. The research undertaken by Professor Michael Malim and his team at King’s will benefit those affected by the virus and hopefully provide scientific breakthroughs to limit the spread of COVID-19 and develop treatments. We are pleased to support this vital work at the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences and look forward to being involved in its progress.”

In this story

Michael  Malim

Michael Malim

Head of School, School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences