COVID-19 RESEARCH AT THE MILNER THERAPEUTICS INSTITUTE
The Milner Therapeutics Institute is supporting research around COVID-19 in multiple ways – both through our own in-house research and by facilitating partnerships between academics and our industry partners.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss new research collaboration opportunities related to COVID-19.
We are particularly proud that our scientific facilities manager Gian-marco Melfi helped to set up the new COVID-19 testing centre in the Anne McLaren Building on the biomedical campus – working alongside colleagues from the University, GSK and AstraZeneca.
The Computational Biology group at the Milner, led by Namshik Han, are working on a proof-of-concept research for COVID-19 drug repurposing, by applying bespoke methods for multi-omic data integration, machine learning and network analysis to identify new disease signatures of disease and therapeutic targets. The group is integrating proteomics datasets from COVID-19 infected cells to identify important proteins during infection, and utilising protein-protein interaction (PPI) databases and network analysis to uncover the networks and key pathways through which these proteins function. By running in-silico drug simulation with FDA-approved drugs on key pathways, they are able to virtually screen promising drugs for repurposing. These approaches will shed light on COVID-19 disease mechanisms and generate promising testable hypothesis for drug repurposing opportunities.
Read more: Han et al. Identification of SARS-CoV-2 induced pathways reveal drug repurposing strategies (preprint on Biorixv 2020)
The Tzelepis Group, part of the Milner Centre for Pathway Analysis, are working on developing tissue-specific functional CRISPR screening platforms that will elucidate the impact of COVID-19 infection on initiation and/or maintenance of carcinogenesis in a genotype-specific manner. These experimental efforts will help the group to establish important genetic traits pertinent to COVID-19 phenotypes, in close association with upcoming large epidemiological and genomic datasets generated by the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium.
Within the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics, Kathryn Lilley along with her long-term collaborator, Anne Willis (MRC-Toxicology Unit), have put together a consortium of researchers in Cambridge and Leicester to interrogate host protein–viral RNA interactions. The aim of the project is to determine the modulation of host cell RNA-binding proteins through the infectious cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and interactions of viral RNA with host proteins.
The Lilley/Willis groups have developed an efficient reproducible method (OOPS) to determine the RNA-binding proteome of cells (Queiroz et al. Nature Biotechnol. 2019; Villanueva et al. Nature Protocols in the press). They will apply OOPS to upper-respiratory-tract-derived (normal and infected) organoids from Joo Hyeong Lee’s lab in the Wellcome MRC Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, to determine the manipulation of the RNA-binding proteome upon viral infection in organoids over an infection cycle. They will interrogate proteins — both host and viral — that directly interact with the viral genome. This project also involves Ian Goodfellow’s lab from the Department of Pathology who will carry out viral infections.
OOPS will also be applied to Calu-3 (human lung epithelial cancer cell line) in order to determine modulation of the host RBPome upon infection and direct interaction of RBPs with the viral transcriptome, where more require material is required than can be obtained from the organoid model. This work will allow identification of the host–viral RNA–protein interactions and enable a full understanding of how the cell responds to the virus, and how the virus manipulates the cellular RNA interacting machinery, and in particular the translation apparatus.
This information will be used to map the RNA interactions onto protein structure and identify drugs that already clinically available as possible treatment options.
Collaboration opportunities with Consortium partners and Affiliated companies
Many of our pharma partners in the Milner Therapeutics Consortium and Affiliated Companies in the Milner Therapeutics Alliance are refocusing research and mobilizing resources and expertise towards new ways to test for and treat COVID-19. There are a number of companies who are actively looking for academic partners and within the University we have collated a database of ongoing activity related to COVID-19. Please contact us if you are looking for a collaboration around a particular need or offering.
In the Milner Therapeutics Consortium, AstraZeneca and GSK are collaborating to boost national COVID-19 testing while Shionogi, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have announced new progress with vaccine candidates.
Many Affiliated Companies are also developing new reagents for COVID-19 collaborations and leveraging internal know-how and expertise to help researchers; one example is Twist Bioscience, who are supplying synthetic genes in a collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Centre. Novel technology platforms such as the PhoreMost screening platform can provide opportunities to discover new drug targets while companies such as Healx, BioMax Informatics AG and Linguamatics are utilizing their unique data and AI platforms to uncover novel insights into the disease and potential treatment strategies. Many affiliates are looking to collaborate with academics who have assays that model COVID-19 and, conversely, service providers can help academics get rapid access to the resources and assays required at this time.
Neighbouring institutes in the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre have refocused their research to drive the fight against COVID-19:
Wellcome MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
Read more »
Opportunities elsewhere in the University to help tackle COVID-19 through research collaborations, by donating equipment or funding research
The University of Cambridge is co-ordinating activities to address COVID-19, including:
- Establishing research collaborations with other research institutions, industrial and charity partners in key disciplines and activities such as: clinical trials, critical care, diagnostics, immunology, infectious diseases, public health, respiratory medicine, vaccines, virology, business risk, data science and modelling, engineering and manufacturing.
- Co-ordinating the donations of supplies, particularly personal protective equipment, for frontline health staff.
- Supporting national priority programmes.
To find out more about how your company may be able to help, click here »
Further COVID-19 Research:
Cambridge University Hospitals Open Clinical Studies: Click here »
Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre Healthy Participant studies: Click here »
COVID-19 funding calls:
A number of funding calls have been initiated for researchers and companies working on therapeutics and diagnostics for coronaviruses. Read more »