On 16 January, the University of Edinburgh announced the obtainment of a €29 million grant, given to experts by the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (IMI 2 JU) for research on the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a severe lung infection.
Harish Nair, the head of the RSV Consortium in Europe (RESCEU) will coordinate with investigators from 18 universities, public health institutions and pharmaceutical companies to work towards the development of a vaccine, the best methods for its implementation, and treatment options.
As quoted on the University of Edinburgh’s website, Dr Nair expressed hope “that an RSV vaccination will be available in the next 5-7 years”.
In an interview with The Student, he explained the impact the virus has on vulnerable members of the population, such as children: “RSV is the cause of about 22 per cent of child pnemonias and nine per cent of all child pnemonia deaths,” Dr. Nair stated.
Furthermore, he went on to explain that, while similar diseases have working vaccines and are currently reaching more and more populations each year, “there is [still] no vaccine for this particular pathogen”.
The consortium is interested in doing research that will inform vaccine policy in Europe, but Dr Nair stressed that this is a global problem, and that they hope that any solutions will extend beyond this continent.
Dr. Nair, a leading researcher on this virus, has worked in the past with the World Health Organization (WHO)and US AID. When asked why he was interested in this pathogen he responded, “we want to combat child mortality”.
This task, tackled by the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences, offers many research opportunities for students.
According to Dr Nair, in the past several years he has published 60 or 70 papers with students as coauthors.
Dr Nair stated that, “for this particular project as well we will have medical students who will be involved by rotation, writing literature reviews; they will participate in this research and this should lead to publications.
“This is an excellent opportunity for students to do good work to also work with the WHO to intern.
“We have had students in the past who we have recommended to the WHO, to the influenza program, to vaccines, to biological initiatives.”
He proceeded to mention more internships achieved by student researchers with the European Disease Control and Prevention in Stockholm and the Center for Disease Control.
Six companies will be involved with the project, listed as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Sanofi Pasteur, Janssen Pharmaceutica and Novavax, together with Synapse Research Management Partners, on the University of Edinburgh’s website.
Dr Nair clarified that of the €29 million grant, approximately half of the money came from pharmaceutical companies who provide services and support besides cash, working as partners to further the research.
Image: Hakan Dahlstrom