A new COVID-19 drug screening and resistance hub in Scotland, based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), has begun its vital work.
The ground-breaking project, CRUSH (COVID-19 Drug-Screening and Resistance Hub), received £2.5million to establish a national resource which will initially be dedicated to supporting and accelerating vital COVID-19-related activites, including antiviral innovation drug translation.
The facility is funded by £2m from medical research charity LifeArc, with additional funding from the Medical Research Council. CVR CRUSH is delivered by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with partners LifeArc and the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit.
Global control of the COVID-19 pandemic is dependent on the availability of effective medical treatments and vaccines. CVR CRUSH will help support the global scientific effort against the disease by providing a fully integrated hub for pre-clinical drug screening and resistance assays for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as providing the same services for other dangerous and deadly viruses in high containment facilities.
Work in the CVR facility will include studies to investigate promising drug candidates for COVID-19 treatment - and elucidating the mechanisms of how they work - alongside the integration of drug screening with the early identification of any possible drug and immune-resistant virus variants to accelerate the investigation process. Other activites include, montoring circulating viruses on a global scale, and vaccine efficacy evaluation (a link to our new CRUSH site for details).
Professor Massimo Palmarini, Director of the CVR, said: "The establishment of CRUSH is an exciting development for the CVR and we are delighted to be partnering with LifeArc on this initiative.
"Whilst CRUSH activities will initially focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the CVR and the CRUSH facility are well positioned to rapidly respond to future viral outbreaks, delivering innovation to address public health crises caused by high consequence viruses. We look forward to working with academic and industry partners to develop CRUSH as a national facility."
The combination of industrial screening capacity in high containment facilities, availability of pre-clinical models and unrivalled virology expertise on site, will mean CVR CRUSH is uniquely placed to work with a range of partners looking to screen, validate and characterise therapeutics and diagnostics targeting COVID-19 and other high consequence viruses.
Michael Dalrymple, the then Executive Director Diagnostics and Science Foresight at LifeArc, said: "At LifeArc, we focus on translation - advancing promising science into medical interventions that improve human health. Our work has become more pressing during the current pandemic. We have now allocated more than £22 million to the search for new medicines and diagnostics to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, and this project is the latest example of that commitment.
Our partnership with the CVR to establish CRUSH will provide the virology research community in the UK with much needed infrastructure and facilities to progress essential research for Covid-19 drug development, other anti-viral therapies and diagnostics, towards patients."
Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee, said, "The excellent facilities and expertise being set up within CRUSH are vital to enabling the UK to respond to COVID-19 and the inevitable future strains of viruses in a rapid and effective manner. CRUSH will allow expert drug discovery groups such as the DDU to engage quickly and effectively in the identification of possible drugs to tackle current and future threats. We look forward to working with Massimo and the CVR team to build their capabilities."
Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, said: "The fight against COVID-19 requires world class scientists and world class labs.
Scottish universities are some of the world’s best and their scientists are doing sterling work to research, understand and find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This funding recognizes the importance of their research and will enable them to continue working for the good not just of the UK, but of the world."
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £213m to expand and upgrade existing research infrastructure to help UK researchers tackle major challenges such as COVID-19 research and recovery, and net zero goals, as part of the government’s World Class Labs funding scheme.