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Global researchers to investigate coronaviruses in humans and animals

Researchers and companies will collaborate to research coronaviruses in people and animals, and help tackle outbreaks

5 October 2021, at 12:30am

A new international network brings together researchers in animal and human coronaviruses to further understanding in a range of fields, such as disease transmission and immunity.

Experts will collaborate to better understand coronaviruses and help tackle outbreaks.
Experts will collaborate to better understand coronaviruses and help tackle outbreaks.

The network aims to enhance knowledge of this important virus family and to inform response strategies for future outbreaks.

The UK International Coronavirus Network (UK-ICN) will facilitate collaborative research and a long term approach across human and animal health. It will receive £500,000 over four years from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"The animal-human interface remains a key and understudied research gap in the current pandemic. Understanding interactions between animals, humans and the environment is critical in preventing future zoonotic outbreaks. This new global network will help us prepare for future outbreaks of animal and human coronaviruses as well as potential zoonotic spillover events," said Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair at BBSRC.

One Health approach

There is a gap in understanding how coronaviruses jump from animals to humans and between animal species, global and UK funding data indicate.

The network will embrace a One Health approach to analyze gaps and identify research priorities to better understand interactions amongst animals, humans and the environment, to help prevent outbreaks.

Experts will compare animal and human coronavirus biology, and integrate data to investigate virus biology, immune response, and effective intervention strategies.

"The decades of research on diagnostics and vaccines to animal coronaviruses has lots to teach in terms of dealing with severe coronavirus pandemics both in the present day and preparing for Disease X in the future," said Professor Julian Hiscox, UK-ICN lead, Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Science and the Pandemic Institute at the University of Liverpool.

Global collaborative effort

UK-ICN is a joint partnership between the Roslin and Pirbright Institutes, Animal and Plant Health Agency, and the Universities of Liverpool, Edinburgh and Cambridge. It will draw on partners from major global research and industry players.