How The University of Manchester is contributing to the fight against coronavirus

At The University of Manchester, our people are working together and with partners from across society to understand coronavirus (COVID-19) and its wide-ranging impacts on our lives.

Researchers, teachers, students and professional service staff are combining their knowledge to contribute to the local, national and international response to the disease.

Research to address the pandemic

We’ve established a COVID-19 research rapid response group through which scientists in our Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health are working with NHS colleagues from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, supported by Health Innovation Manchester, and utilising our experimental and translational research expertise through the NHIR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre and NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility.

This brings together the research and innovation strengths of our partnerships in an unprecedented way to focus on this public health crisis. Our aims are to minimise lives lost nationally and globally, and reduce the impact of the pandemic on Greater Manchester’s health and social care system and the wider community.

The group’s work is focusing on a number of key priorities:

New treatments

We will play a full part in the leadership, coordination and execution of clinical trials. These are focused on new therapies aimed at improving clinical outcomes and are employing a range of therapies including antivirals, anti-inflammatory agents and other novel intensive care modalities.

Our partnership is seeking opportunities to fund additional new trials and we are developing protocols in Greater Manchester for new therapies, informed by our previous research in other contexts where a 'hyper-immune' response has been observed.

Example project:

Disease mechanisms

Our world-leading virology and inflammation/immunology teams, including members of our Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, are working actively to study patients in real-time in order to better understand the mechanisms by which this virus causes severe reactions particularly in the lungs. Such work will suggest new treatment approaches which we can then test.

Patient assessment

Our expertise in data science, mathematics and computer modelling is being harnessed to help identify and track patients with symptoms to identify those who are deteriorating and who need more intensive interventions at an earlier stage. 

This collaboration, between the University and NHS trusts, will use routinely collected patient data updated throughout the day to allow early escalation of patients to more active treatment.

Example project:

Social care impact

Our public health and applied health researchers are working on developing and evaluating ways to relieve the pressure that the NHS and social care systems. Such work requires close cooperation between the local authorities, public health teams and the NHS.

Our leadership in this area will enable evaluation of any new approaches from which we can draw lessons for future outbreaks and more efficient deployment of health and social care facilities.

Example project:

Patients with existing health conditions

Many patients with pre-existing diseases who are on treatments that suppress their immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the more severe complications of COVID-19. Our researchers are leading on European and global efforts to track these patients.

By doing so we will be able to provide more person-centred advice about management of their background condition and treatment during such outbreaks. 

Rapid diagnosis

Our partnership is working closely with major industry partners to develop and deploy rapid diagnosis testing platforms to scale up for mass, widespread testing during this acute outbreak. 

Example project:

Prevention/vaccination

We are in discussions with manufacturers who are developing vaccines to prevent COVID-19. The Greater Manchester partnership has experience of deploying clinical trials at large scale within the community – for example, the recent Salford Lung Study. This approach and population-based tracking of patients will help support rapid recruitment and read out of results for any future vaccination trials so that these vaccines can be in use as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, many of our colleagues have been offering their services away from their own core University roles towards supporting coronavirus research and also helping the NHS on the ground.