Three ambitious research projects designed to build our understanding of viruses and how the immune system reacts to different challenges will share £25 million in new funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Tackling Infections is one of UKRI’s five strategic themes and these projects represent three of a number of investments in ways to investigate and better manage future infectious disease threats.

Dr Stephen Oakeshott, MRC Head of Infections and Immunity said: “We are committed to helping the country be better prepared for future pandemics and this important work will provide important insight for public health and illuminate a pathway for next-generation vaccine development.”


The G2P2 virology consortium: keeping pace with SARS-CoV-2 variants

Led by Professor Wendy Barclay, Imperial College London

The G2P2 consortium will keep pace with the continually evolving variants of SARS-CoV-2. Combining the consortium’s skills in molecular virology, the project will track how genetic changes emerging in the virus affect phenotypes, including:

  • the severity of illness the virus may cause
  • the range of cell types it can infect
  • how well it can evade the immune system
  • how it is transmitted between people

This will provide an evidence base to inform whether updates to current vaccines are needed and inform changes in policy based on increased risk to population health.

This new global collaborative project will further our understanding of how vaccines keep people safe, answering why some people get infected even after vaccination and identifying if delivering vaccines to the mucosa (up the nose) may result in better protection.

IMMPROVE: Immune Memory and Mechanisms of Protection from Vaccines

Led by Professor Teresa Lambe OBE and Professor Paul Klenerman, University of Oxford

Working with experts in the UK, low- and middle-income countries, and with industry, researchers will use samples from clinical trials and experimental medicine to find out why some vaccines work better than others. These data and learnings will help to not only make better vaccines against Covid-19, but also against other respiratory pathogens such as flu.

Ultimately, the project will help scientists to design, test and deliver vaccines that can protect the most vulnerable from disease.

Evolutionarily smart vaccine strain selection for proactive vaccinology

Led by Professor Derek Smith, University of Cambridge

This project aims to enhance the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine strain selection process to provide the best possible protection for the UK population.

It will predict which variants may emerge in the future and measure immune responses against this potential future evolution. This will enable researchers to choose the variant of the virus to use in the next vaccine.

This continual monitoring and updating of the variant is necessary to protect those at high-risk of complications from COVID-19 and who will require further vaccinations against the evolving virus.