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Since its launch in September 2020, the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) has established itself as a leading global center for infectious disease R&D and has created 176 high value-added jobs in the Northwest.
Based in Liverpool and Cheshire, iiCON was founded with a government grant of Â£ 18.6million provided by the UK’s flagship research and innovation fund, Strength in Places. The consortium raised an additional Â£ 154.9million of public and private investment in its first year, creating a program of Â£ 173.5million.
The collaborative R&D program is led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). It aims to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases – saving and improving millions of lives by working with industry, academia and clinicians to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of new treatments and products for patients. and communities.
Over the past 12 months, iiCON has launched collaborative partnerships with over 186 UK SMEs and start-ups, as well as projects with global industry giants including Pfizer and Unilever. The consortium has also invested Â£ 9.4million in local capacity and workforce development.
Bringing together industry, research and the NHS to advance collaborative innovation, iiCON partner members are Unilever, Evotec, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool and Infex Therapeutics. The program has also attracted significant support from organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.
IiCON Founding Director Professor Janet Hemingway said: âiiCON was founded in response to the formidable global challenge posed by infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance and emerging pandemics. Since our launch in 2020, the co-innovation model led by the consortium’s partnership has allowed a remarkable impact both in terms of promoting innovation and bringing new products to market, but also in the development health policy at regional, national and global levels. – save and improve millions of lives.
She added: âResource-constrained SMEs are our main source of innovation in the development of new antimicrobials. Identify, support and connect the most innovative of these companies with the right expertise, infrastructure and financial backing to navigate the high cost and high risk product development journey and accelerate new product time to market is at the heart of our vision.
âWe are delighted to have forged strong partnerships with organizations around the world, negotiated impactful collaborations, supported companies of all sizes and enabled access to world-class expertise and infrastructure to ensure products are accelerated from discovery to market and quickly reach patients and communities. , safely and at a lower cost.
Operating on 10 specialized research platforms capable of pivoting to manage any infectious disease, the consortium is designed to drive innovation and provide resilience to pandemics. Last year, iiCON accelerated the development of new treatments and prevention for COVID-19 and other important infectious diseases.
iiCON has validated the first COVID-19 lateral flow test for asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic individuals. He also worked with the Ministry of Defense to develop a surface spray that deactivates COVID-19 in 60 seconds, which has been used in COVID test sites in the UK.
As part of a program negotiated by iiCON, LSTM worked with Unilever, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of oral hygiene products, to rapidly assess the performance of mouthwashes against SARS-CoV-2 . This work has shown that the technology Unilever uses in its mouthwashes inactivates COVID and provides essential data for regulatory approval and claims in major global markets.
Other contributions to the global COVID effort include the co-development of a new model organoid that mimics the impact of COVID-19 on the lungs more accurately than traditional plaque assays, with UK SME Newcells BioTech . This innovation will be used to screen for more targeted treatments for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
The discovery and development of new treatments for life-threatening resistance infections is a key priority for the iiCON platforms. Alderley Edge, Cheshire-based partner Infex Therapeutics expects to advance two new therapies to fight dangerous multidrug-resistant microbial infections in clinical trials over the next 12 months, helping to address the primary threat to the global health of antimicrobial resistance.
IiCON’s work influences international health policy, supporting communities around the world, including Africa.
An iiCON trial testing the efficacy of mosquito nets treated with insecticide / synergist combinations shaped the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for malaria prevention. While a rapid COVID-19 antigen test, validated by LSTM researchers via iiCON, is being used to conduct large-scale testing in key areas of need across Africa as part of a major program FIND and UNITAID.
The consortium is also working with the government of Malawi and the Wellcome Trust to provide data that shapes the country’s policy response to COVID-19.
Professor David Lalloo, Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: âiiCON has had an incredible first year. As a lead partner, we are excited about the impact of the program in enabling collaboration and advancing global innovation in infection research and development that will ultimately help save and improve the lives of millions of people. .
âPartnership and co-innovation are absolutely essential if we are to meet the global challenge posed by infectious diseases and emerging pandemics. The growth of the consortium is a testament to the scale of the needs – it has never been more important for the global community to work together to support innovation, strengthen our anti-infective pipeline and strengthen our response to emerging pandemics and infections. resistant.
He added, âOver the past 12 months, iiCON has firmly established itself as a leading global center for infection innovation and this is just the beginning of the journey. iiCON has a vital role to play in supporting the discovery and development of the breakthrough products and treatments of tomorrow, and we are incredibly excited about what the future holds for the program.
Dr Peter Jackson, Executive Director of Infex Therapeutics, said: âCollaborating to foster and drive innovation to tackle the global infectious disease threat is at the heart of iiCON’s goal. As a lead partner, we are delighted to see the consortium realize this ambition and produce such a significant impact through a number of diverse global projects and programs in its first year.
âWith the collaborative support and funding of iiCON, Infex expects to advance two new therapies to fight dangerous multidrug-resistant infections in clinical trials over the next year. Our two treatments treat infections that pose a key threat to global health and our involvement in iiCON has accelerated these new therapies through to clinical trials, helping to accelerate the journey of these much-needed new treatments for patients. “