We’re leading the COVID-19 research response in Scotland

Scientists looking through microscopes

Our scientists are at the heart of Scotland’s and the UK’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The largest group of virologists in the UK is based at our MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), and they are working on a range of research areas related to the coronavirus. These include

  • working closely with colleagues in Public Health England to understand linkages across the UK in an effort to shut down ongoing transmission
  • fundamental studies to understand the nature of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19
  • genomic sequencing and bioinformatics analyses of the virus from patient samples
  • the identification of potential therapies.

Professor Massimo Palmarini is Director of the CVR. “We have the facilities to handle samples from infected patients and are well placed to conduct pivotal research into COVID-19,” he says. “In the coming weeks and months, our scientists will continue to work in collaboration with NHS Scotland sequencing the virus, as well as conducting further research into SARS-CoV-2, its mechanisms of action and potential therapies.”

The rapid sequencing of COVID-19 samples is essential to further research into the virus and will eventually help to create vaccines against the disease. Our team of scientists at the CVR will continue to sequence virus samples for as long as the outbreak lasts, and make the genomic information publicly available immediately thereafter, to enhance efforts worldwide to tackle the disease.

Our rapid response timeline

  • In early March 2020, CVR scientists working in partnership with the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre rapidly sequenced the virus from the first COVID-19 patient confirmed in Scotland. “The rapid turnaround of the sample and interpretation of the data was only possible due to excellent coordination between clinicians, diagnostic labs and research partners,” says Dr Ana Filipe, Head of the CVR’s Viral Genomics facility. “These collaborations are critically important to ensuring an effective response to outbreaks like this.”
  • Later in March, the CVR was named as one of 13 UK centres forming a key alliance of scientific expertise, backed by £20m of investment, to continue sequencing the coronavirus genome in patients and study the behaviour of the disease.
  • At the same time, we joined forces with the University of Dundee to advance understanding of fundamental COVID-19 biology and design antibodies against the virus – all of which will be made available to the global research community.
  • We shared in £4.9m of government funding for a partnership project that seeks to increase our understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on the body. Through studying samples from 1,300 coronavirus patients, it aims to help identify which patients are at higher risk of severe illness, help control the outbreak and discover improved treatments.

The MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) was established in 2010 and represents the UK’s largest grouping of human and veterinary virologists. The CVR is embedded within the Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation at the University, which provides excellent research opportunities to investigate virus-host interactions and immune response to virus infection.

The CVR is funded by the Medical Research Council, the UK’s leading publicly funded biomedical research organisation, and by a variety of other funding bodies including the Wellcome Trust, the BBSRC, EU and others.

The Centre for Virus Research

This article was first published March 2020. 

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