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Liverpool welcomes UK’s top pandemic scientists

September 8, 2023

Some of the UK’s leading pandemic scientists have gathered at The Pandemic Institute in Liverpool for two days of discussion (5 & 6 September, 2023) around how we respond to and prepare for emerging infections and future pandemic threats.

Meeting at The Spine, The UK Pandemic Sciences Network, brought together leading universities and pandemic science research teams to help protect people and society from epidemic and pandemic infectious diseases through scientific discovery and innovation. As well as talks on recent responses to diseases such as flu and mpox, the meeting featured a session on the importance of good science communication during a pandemic. Chaired by Liverpool City Council’s Director of Communications, Camilla Mankabady, the session featured BBC’s Fergus Walsh who reported throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Professor Calum Semple, Professor Peter Openshaw, and Professor Sarah Gilbert, the scientist who designed the Oxford Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Dame Jenny Harries from the UK Health Security Agency gave a keynote on preparing for and responding to pandemic threats, highlighting the importance of partnerships.

As part of the meeting Professor Tom Solomon, from the University of Liverpool’s Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences Institute, and Director of The Pandemic Institute, described plans for new Pandemic Preparedness and Response Laboratories which will provide essential facilities for the whole UK Pandemic Sciences Network. The new building, in Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter, will strengthen research on diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics against infectious disease threats. The facility is due to receive support from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Investment Zone which is backed by £80M of government funding.

The meeting was opened by Professor Tim Jones, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, who said:

“I want to express our commitment to the UK Pandemic Sciences Network and its pivotal role in supporting the UK pandemic sciences community to establish more connections and enhance cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Network has a vital role to play as a convening body and focal point for academic interaction with HM Government, the UK Health Security Agency and industry.”

There was a special regional session which highlighted some of the world-leading work that happened in Liverpool during the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought together civic, medical and academic institutions to trial mass testing and the return to live events. The panel, chaired by Professor Tom Solomon featured members of The Pandemic Institute’s founding partner organisations, including Professor David Lalloo (Director of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), Dr Cathy Montgomery (Head of the Institute for Health Research at Liverpool John Moores University) and Professor Matthew Ashton (Director of Public Health for Liverpool City Council)

Day one of the meeting ended with a welcome from Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, who helped celebrate the work being carried out in the region. He said:

“Few places can claim to have made a bigger impact on global health than the Liverpool City Region – and it is a legacy that we are proud to be continuing today.”

The Pandemic Institute’s mission is to protect the world from emerging infections and future pandemic threats is a global organisation created to prepare the world for future pandemics.

Launched in 2021, the Institute is formed of seven founding partners: The University of Liverpool (host organisation), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust, and Knowledge Quarter Liverpool.

The Pandemic Institute provides comprehensive end-to-end capabilities across the pandemic lifecycle to accelerate the global response to emerging infections and future pandemic threats, producing high impact outputs applicable to individuals, businesses and governments, businesses, and individuals globally locally nationally and internationally.