Newcastle University: National effort by immunologists to search for answers on COVID-19

Experts at Newcastle University are part of a national consortium to answer questions on how COVID-19 affects the body’s immune system to help develop better diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

Identifying how the immune system responds to COVID-19 is critical to understanding many of the unknowns around the virus, such as why do some people become sick and not others, what constitutes effective immunity and how long might that immunity last?

A new UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium has been set up to address these important questions. It will receive £6.5m over a year – the largest immunology grant awarded to tackle the pandemic.


Our teams are focused on characterising the immune response to this virus and how it contributes to severe disease. We are really excited to contribute our expertise to this important effort
Dr Christopher Duncan

Focusing on immune response
A group of seven scientists and their teams at Newcastle University will receive a grant of £425,000 to explore how the immune system shapes clinical outcome from COVID-19.

Dr Christopher Duncan, from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, said: “This consortium represents the collective response of the UK immunology community to the pandemic.

“In Newcastle, our teams are focused on characterising the immune response to this virus and how it contributes to severe disease. We are really excited to contribute our expertise to this important effort.”

The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium brings together leading immunologists from 17 UK universities and is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The consortium will investigate:

● How long does immunity from COVID-19 last?

● Why are some people’s immune systems better able to fight off the virus?

● Why do some people’s immune responses cause damage, especially to the lungs?

● How does the virus ‘hide from’ the immune system and how can this be tackled?

● Does immunity to previous infection with seasonal coronaviruses (which cause the common cold) alter a person’s outcome with SARS-CoV-2?

Better understanding of these immune responses, particularly the T cell response, could provide targets for new therapies to treat COVID-19 and inform the efforts to develop a vaccine.

Unprecedented national effort
This consortium is led by Professor Paul Moss from the University of Birmingham. It will collaborate closely with ISARIC-4C, 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.

Professor Paul Moss, the consortium’s Principal Investigator from the University of Birmingham, said: “Understanding the complexities of the immune response is key to successfully developing new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

“The UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium will see the UK immunology community come together in an unprecedented way to answer questions that are crucial in helping us control this pandemic.

“Immunologists are at the forefront of efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and the UK is a world-leader in immunology research.”