Gifford is supporting the launch with a philanthropic donation of £14.7m

A new multi-million-pound pandemic science hub is being created, to develop treatments for lung infections such as COVID-19 and prepare the UK for similar future pandemics.

The research programme was announced at the University of Edinburgh, with support from a significant donation from Baillie Gifford.

The programme – called The Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub – will use translational genomics with experimental medicine methods, to quickly evaluate and develop drugs for lung inflammation, and injury caused by infection.

The hub builds on the success of GenOMICC – a global research study that aims to understand the genetic factors that change outcomes in critical illness – and STOPCOVID. GenOMICC recently discovered a further 16 genes underlying severe COVID-19, potentially leading to even more effective treatments.

“We have been genuinely excited to see the results of the GenOMICC and STOPCOVID projects and our investment aims to accelerate these programmes,” said Mark Urquhart, partner at Baillie Gifford. “The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on how vulnerable the world is to this type of virulent viral infection. Our aim is to contribute towards better preparedness for new Covid-19 variants and other pandemics in the future. We see great opportunity in the innovative approaches taken by the University of Edinburgh.”

The use of translational genomics will allow the hub to follow clues from the human genome to identify and rapidly test new treatments. The programme will combine Edinburgh’s world-class ability to determine a person’s genetic predisposition to lung injury with advanced interventional robotics for drug delivery, cutting-edge sensing and sampling technologies and innovative clinical trial design.

Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, commented: “Our partnership with Baillie Gifford in creating this innovative Pandemic Science Hub demonstrates the way in which enlightened philanthropic investment can accelerate academic research. This initiative has the capacity to positively impact many lives both locally and globally and we are very pleased to be working with Baillie Gifford in this transformative way.”