The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, or UK-CIC, is a UK-wide study launched to tackle some of the key questions about the immune system’s response to SARS-CoV-2, and help us control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Identifying how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 is critical to understanding so many of the unknowns around this novel virus – for example, why does it make some people sick and not others, what constitutes effective immunity, and how long might that immunity last? The immune system is extremely complex, and so to make rapid and effective progress in our knowledge, a cohesive and nationally coordinated approach is required.
The UK leads the world for the quality of our immunology research, and UK-CIC sees 19 centres of excellence combine their expertise and specialist resources to answer some of the most important outstanding questions.
The project will focus on five key research themes:
1. Primary immunity: Characterising the primary immune response to COVID-19 and how this relates to clinical outcome of individual patients
2. Protective immunity: Identifying how effective immunity is established and maintained to prevent re-infection
3. Immunopathology: Understanding how the immune system can damage tissue while fighting COVID-19 and how this can be stopped
4. Cross-reactive coronavirus immunity: Examining if immunity to other mild ‘seasonal’ coronaviruses (that cause common colds) can alter the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection
5. Immune evasion: Revealing how SARS-CoV-2 can ‘evade’ the immune system
This innovative project has received £6.5million of funding over 12 months from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which is the largest immunology grant awarded to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The constrained timeline of the project will ensure that meaningful benefits for public health will be delivered at pace, through insights crucial for improving patient management, developing new therapies, assessing immunity within the population, and developing diagnostics and vaccines.
The consortium is led by Professor Paul Moss from the University of Birmingham. It will collaborate closely with ISARIC4C, an internationally-leading project already underway to examine the immune profile of hospitalised patients with COVID-19, and is supported by the British Society for Immunology.