The Midlands is delivering nearly £100m of Covid research to support the nation’s fight against Covid-19

A new report has revealed that the Midlands has moved swiftly to apply its wealth of capability in its hospitals, universities and businesses to deliver £90m of research to support regional, national and global efforts to tackle the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The report – Mobilising Research Excellence in the Midlands to Tackle Covid-19 – highlights that:

  • Experts in the Midlands, including those from Keele University, are leading 81 new Covid-19 research programmes;
  • The region is playing a crucial and integral role in the world-leading genome sequencing consortium which is identifying the strains of Covid-19 recently in the UK and internationally;
  • The Midlands has used its internationally-leading research excellence and clinical trials infrastructure to recruit over 50,000 patients to Covid-19 clinical trials, driving the discovery of new treatments and scientific insights;
  • The region has successfully bid for £45m of funding enabling the delivery of £90m of cutting-edge Covid-19 related research;
  • The region was at the forefront of the early detection of the heightened risks of Covid-19 to the country’s Black and Ethnic Minority population and bringing this to clinical attention.

The Midlands Life Science community, made up of over 1,200 companies supporting over 30,000 jobs, has played a key role in the national effort against Covid-19. The Midlands is ideally placed to tackle the coronavirus, with the largest number of Life Science companies outside London and the South East, a globally representative population engaged with research, and a fully-integrated clinical research infrastructure.

The region is also driving the sector internationally, not least because of the world-class Midlands universities, seven of which, including Keele, have Medical Schools. These are all working to promote strong collaboration between academia, industry and health.

A prime example of such a collaboration is the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca UK vaccine, which is being manufactured by Cobra Biologics on Keele University's Science and Innovation Park.

The new report, which has been co-produced by the Midlands Health Alliance, Midlands Innovation Health, and Medilink Midlands, showcases examples of the region’s research excellence to support national pandemic efforts.

Within it, the report highlights a number of the research activities undertaken by Keele academics in response to the pandemic, as well as some of the ways in which staff and students at Keele have been involved in addressing the impacts of Covid-19, including:

  • Participation in a 12-month clinical trials study led by National Institute for Health Research to test the effectiveness of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine candidate;
  • Supporting a key national programme (REACT-2) which saw 3,500 pioneering Covid-19 diagnostic tests take place on campus;
  • Facilitating and supporting the early release of more than 270 final year nursing and medical students into the healthcare workforce, adding to the thousands of Keele-trained healthcare professionals who were already on the NHS frontline;
  • The donation of almost 100,000 items of PPE to frontline NHS workers;
  • Manufacturing and donating 100,000 litres of hand sanitiser to support local hospitals during a global shortage;
  • The provision of online legal advice to vulnerable households;
  • Uniting designers and engineers from across the world to help tackle some of the biggest issues affecting the NHS, care providers and patients;
  • Supporting the development of a new training module for GPs regarding the long-term effects of Covid-19, following research by Keele academics.

The report also highlights Keele Deal | Recovery, an initiative which will be shortly launched by Keele that will build on the University’s strong and diverse history of local collaborations, setting out significant commitments that will aid and strengthen local recovery following Covid-19.

The Deal will encompass eight interrelated themes – Innovation and Enterprise, Cultural Regeneration, Digital Futures, Employment and Skills, Food Security, Health and Wellbeing, Inclusion and Sustainability.

Sir John Peace, Chairman of the Midlands Engine, which has recently launched Midlands Engine Health – a vehicle to amplify on the national stage the world-leading health research in the Midlands region – said: “The Midlands is delivering world-leading, life changing clinical research in response to Covid-19. Working together across the region, the NHS, universities and industry are meeting the challenge, driving lifesaving treatments for Covid-19 and improving outcomes.”

The full report can be accessed on the Midlands Innovation website.