£500k fillip for new robotic labs in global battle against deadly diseases

New hi-tech robotic labs capable of handling deadly infectious diseases are being developed in Liverpool following a funding fillip

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) have secured a £500,000 grant that will support the development of new Containment Level 3 laboratories at LSTM.

The grant, from the independent charitable organisation The Wolfson Foundation, will support the expansion of high-specification robotic laboratories at LSTM capable of securely handling high risk and deadly infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

iiCON, which is led by LSTM, brings together industry, academia, and the NHS in a £174m collaborative infectious disease R&D programme to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of new antimicrobial treatments and products.

Its partners are Unilever, Evotec, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, The University of Liverpool, and Infex Therapeutics.

The new facilities will be Robotic Category 3 Chemistry Laboratories, utilising next generation AI technology and robotics, to securely progress the research and development of new products, treatments, and diagnostics for infectious diseases that pose a global threat to human health.

Through iiCON, industry will be able to work alongside LSTM’s world leading academic researchers on new treatments and products using the new laboratories, which are expected to be operational by early 2023.

Prof David Lalloo, director of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “The Wolfson Foundation have been long term supporters of the work of LSTM and we are delighted to have this link to continue in a format that will benefit multiple areas of our activity. As we move towards LSTM’s 125th anniversary in 2023, we plan to expand our activities and facilities to enable us to continue creating opportunities and generating knowledge that will bridge the gap in health and scientific capacity around the world.”

Prof Janet Hemingway, founding director of iiCON, said: “Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has the highest concentration of Containment Level 3 laboratories in the North West of England. These facilities have played a critical role in the battle against COVID and other pathogens – enabling industry and researchers to work safely and securely with dangerous pathogens.

“We look forward to working closely with our partners to enable industry and academic co-innovation through access to these important facilities that will accelerate the discovery and development of new vaccines, products, and treatments for some of the world’s most challenging diseases.”

This investment will help to develop the next generation of global health leaders, accelerate the development of transformative technologies, and future-proof the region as a world leading centre for infection innovation, learning, and research.