Seven-figure support kickstarts COVID-19 Response Fund

More than £600,000 of new gifts and £1 million from the donor-backed President’s Excellence Fund are allowing Imperial to speed up COVID-19 research.

The news comes less than a week after the College launched its COVID-19 Response Fund. More than 200 alumni and friends backed the fund.

The work of Imperial staff, students, alumni and friends to fight COVID-19 is truly extraordinary. Professor Nick Jennings Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise)

Major seed investments have already been allocated to Professor Robin Shattock’s work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and to Professor Molly Stevens whose group is racing to improve coronavirus diagnostics.

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise), will lead a cross-Faculty expert panel in rapidly distributing more than £1 million for novel and essential research into the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

This seed funding will help leverage and build on other investors in Imperial’s COVID-19 research, including UKRI, the Wellcome Trust and philanthropists like Community Jameel.

The COVID-19 Research Fund will grow as alumni and friends continue to add their support.

Rising to the challenge

The first applications will be considered on 13 April, with a rolling deadline to accelerate funding decisions and distribution.

The panel will prioritise research excellence, clinical need, relevant expertise, deliverability and potential outcomes.

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise), said: “The work of Imperial staff, students, alumni and friends to fight COVID-19 is truly extraordinary. We are delighted to direct President’s Excellence Funds to this crucial work.

“Knowing that hundreds of alumni and friends are offering financial support inspires and energises our community at this most challenging moment. We are all incredibly grateful.”

The President’s Excellence Fund, established in 2016 by President Alice Gast, supports groundbreaking education and research at Imperial and is partly funded by donations from alumni and friends.

Redeploying expertise

As Imperial’s campuses move to largely remote operations, staff and students are finding creative ways to use their expertise, time and resources to combat coronavirus.

Professor Neil Ferguson’s team of epidemiologists have published scores of influential papers mapping and predicting the spread of COVID-19, and showing the effectiveness of interventions around the world.

Retrovirologist Professor Myra McClure has converted an Imperial lab for NHS COVID-19 virus testing, able to handle 1,500 samples per day.

Prof Tony Gordon is leading national clinical studies of new interventions against severe COVID-19 disease.

Students, doctors and other staff are volunteering in NHS hospitals across west London, and they will need further help as the crisis intensifies.

They include final year medical student Stephen Naulls who wrote in the Guardian about how he and his Imperial peers feel “a strong moral obligation to assist however possible in the midst of this unprecedented struggle,” as they enter the NHS frontline months earlier than previously planned.

Imperial staff can apply for support on the COVID-19 Research Fund website.

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