3 July 2020: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today announced a €4.8 million investment into the immunology of COVID-19 at Trinity College Dublin.
The partnership supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will be led by Prof Kingston Mills and Prof Aideen Long at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, Trinity College Dublin.
The research will seek to understand why some people are more susceptible to COVID-19 than others. The immunologists will develop, validate and deploy rapid anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in Ireland to identify previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in high priority healthcare workers and in the general community.
This will provide key data on epidemiology of the infection in the Irish population and allow identification of individuals that are ‘immune’ and therefore safe to return to work. The project will also focus on the design of effective vaccines and novel treatment approaches.
Announcing the award Minister Harris, said: “I am delighted to be announcing the establishment of this important COVID-19 research partnership led by Trinity College Dublin, a world-leading academic institution in immunology. Science and research have never been more important as the world faces a global pandemic. We still have so much more to learn about this virus and this partnership will be key to addressing some of the key questions.”
“I congratulate all the researchers and clinicians for coming together, with the support of SFI and philanthropic and private sector organisations. This is of national importance given the immense societal and economic impact of the current pandemic and will enable us to contribute solutions to the challenges we face.”
Commenting on the award, Prof Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology and Academic Director Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute said: “The funding of this research project by SFI and AIB has allowed the creation of a centre of excellence in the Immunology of COVID-19 where leading immunologists and clinicians at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, together with other partners, address key research questions designed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A better understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 will assist in the design of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the best long-term approach for containing the virus and preventing a recurrence. The longer-term objective is to create a national research centre focused on the immunology of infection that will enable Ireland to be poised and better prepared, with the appropriately skilled and coordinated scientific and medical expertise, to deal with other infectious disease epidemics in the future.”
Announcing the award, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “This SFI Strategic Partnership will seek to identify how research into COVID 19 immunology can answer some key questions, such as why are men affected more than women, what is the nature of the immune response, how long does it last and can it be boosted. These answers will be key to understanding and managing the current pandemic. The partnership combines the world-leading expertise and resources from TCD and other partner organisations in Ireland and internationally. I congratulate those leading the project and thank the partners for providing support. This partnership builds on the world-leading expertise in our Universities and demonstrates, the responsive nature of the Irish research community.”
This project will address important research questions on the nature of the immune and inflammatory responses to the virus that will help us to understand why some individuals are more susceptible to disease than others. The project will develop, validate and deploy rapid anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in Ireland to identify previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in high priority healthcare workers and in the general community. This will provide key data on epidemiology of the infection in the Irish population and allow identification of individuals that are ‘immune’ and therefore safe to return to work. The researchers will study innate and adaptive immune responses to SARS-Cov-2 at the cellular and genomic level and correlate this with severity of disease. The project will also focus on the design of effective vaccines and novel treatment approaches.
The project is led by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with researchers at University of Limerick and University College Dublin. It is support by Allied Irish Bank (AIB) through the Trinity Foundation. International collaborators include leading researchers in USA, the Netherlands, France, Hong Kong and UK.