Universities in the UK are working hard to find ways to stop and mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus. Across the country, they are developing ventilators, providing vital equipment, researching genome sequencing and more.

In this blog we highlight some of the ongoing work of NCUB member universities in supporting the battle against COVID-19.

A genome sequencing alliance

Through a £20 million investment, the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium will set out to map how COVID-19 spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing. Spearheaded by the University of Cambridge, the consortium is made up of the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and numerous academic institutions – including NCUB members: the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Exeter, Glasgow, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, and UCL. The genetic code could arm public health agencies and clinicians with a cutting-edge tool to combat the virus.

Supporting the NHS

Universities are providing help to support the NHS and ease the pressure on its staff. The University of Warwick is, for example, donating its protective personal equipment to local hospitals and making its laboratories available to support clinical laboratory work, amongst other initiatives. The University of Northampton is providing free rooms to house healthcare staff and patients and University of Oxford and King’s College London have teamed up to build and test prototypes for rapidly deployable ventilators that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped university and SME workshops.

Preventing the spread of the virus

University research teams are looking into new approaches to coronavirus testing and how the spread of the virus can be curbed, deploying university expertise and resources in a variety of ways. The University of Birmingham is converting its Collaborative Teaching Laboratory to produce urgently needed hand sanitiser for Birmingham’s social care workers working on the frontline. The University of Leicester is trialling a new approach to testing for coronavirus, which could determine whether a person is infectious or not – even before symptoms are present. King’s College London has launched a new free app which tracks symptoms related to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), allowing anyone to self-report daily on their health. Researchers at Brunel University London, Lancaster University and University of Surrey have developed a molecular test and app, that can tell people in half an hour if they have COVID-19, and have now appealed to industry to help fast produce the kit.

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