Award details

UK International coronavirus network (UK-ICN)

Principal Investigator / Supervisor Professor Julian Hiscox
Co-Investigators /
Professor Paul Digard
Institution University of Liverpool
DepartmentInfection & Microbiome
Funding typeResearch
Value (£) 510,207
TypeResearch Grant
Start date 01/10/2021
End date 30/09/2025
Duration48 months


This proposal will create a multi-disciplinary global network of coronavirus researchers called the UK International coronavirus network (UK-ICN) for coordinating research into coronaviruses. Our network is composed of UK and international researchers on animal and human coronaviruses, ecologists, social scientists and includes critical national research infrastructure and stakeholders. This is not a fixed club and we will expand and develop an inclusive network. The goal is to facilitate linkages between researchers (from academia, government and industry) and policy and decision makers in order to foster a holistic One Health-oriented approach to understanding and controlling coronavirus disease. We will host scientific meetings, focussed workshops and facilitate laboratory exchanges in the areas of coronavirus host-pathogen biology, evolution, ecology and transmission, with the overall goal of coordinating future research to aid an effective response to this important class of viruses. We will: 1. Foster collaborations within and outside of the network, and develop the next generation of coronavirus and related researchers by providing opportunities for early career researchers to form personal networks and pass on scientific knowhow. 2. Ensure sharing of knowledge, material transfer agreements and reagents between the various scientific disciplines that encompass animal and human coronaviruses, to speed progress and ensure that lessons learnt in one area are passed onto others 3. Create interdisciplinary collaborations to understand the drivers of spill over events that result in novel coronavirus infections of animals and humans. Although the UK-ICN will not directly fund research, we have significant critical infrastructure and capabilities as well as national level biobanks and these can be used to facilitate further research. The outputs of UK-ICN will be captured through meeting reports, publications, briefing notes and policy advisory documents.


This proposal is for the establishment of a UK and international network (UK International coronavirus network UK-ICN) to understand coronavirus infections of humans and animals and promote links between researchers of different scientific disciplines. Animal coronaviruses cause a very significant disease burden and great economic loss in many countries. Over the years there have been various strategies developed to control them, including specific vaccination strategies, diagnostics and improved farm biosecurity, but they remain a problem. Furthermore, in the last two decades we have seen the emergence of three coronaviruses with devastating effects on human health - the most recent, SARS-CoV-2, has caused a global pandemic that has killed over 2 million people so far, destroyed livelihoods and caused a degree of upheaval not seen since World War 2. The three pathogenic human coronaviruses all spilled over from animal hosts and probably originated from bats, entering the human population through the food chain. Establishing a broad-based international network on coronaviruses centred in a research-intensive country like the UK will ensure that lessons in coronavirus control and treatment can be rapidly interchanged between the global research community interested in animal and human coronaviruses. A strength of the application is the management board. We have assembled a management team that has broad-ranging expertise across human and animal coronaviruses, academia, public and veterinary health. The expertise of the management board includes other viruses as well that will feed into the coronavirus network. Promoting discussion in this broad area and having fora for the exchange of ideas is vital; our network will provide these. In addition, travel restrictions during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic have curtailed networking opportunities for the junior scientists who will be the leaders of the future. Part of the goal of this network is to facilitate these individuals finding their own partnerships to ensure that coronavirus research is firmly embedded in the scientific and policy agenda. As the spread of human and animal coronaviruses illustrates, coronaviruses (and other infectious diseases) do not respect political borders and nation states and therefore a network on coronaviruses has to encompass not only UK scientists but be international in reach as well.
Committee Not funded via Committee
Research TopicsAnimal Health, Microbiology
Research PriorityX – Research Priority information not available
Research Initiative Coronavirus Networks [2021]
Funding SchemeX – not Funded via a specific Funding Scheme
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