This morning, Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science Simon Harris announced a €4.8 million investment into the immunology research of Covid-19 at Trinity.
The project is led by Trinity in collaboration with researchers at University of Limerick and University College Dublin.
It is supported by Allied Irish Bank (AIB) through the Trinity Foundation.
The partnership supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will be led by Professor Kingston Mills and Professor Aideen Long at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute.
On Twitter, Provost Patrick Prendergast welcomed the new funding, stating that the “importance of fundamental science never more obvious”.
The research will focus on why some individuals are more susceptible to Covid-19 than others.
According to SFI, the immunologists will “develop, validate and deploy rapid anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing in Ireland to identify previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in high priority healthcare workers and in the general community”.
This will provide data on the epidemiology of the infection in the Irish population and allow identification of individuals that are “immune” and therefore safe to return to work.
The project will also focus on the design of effective vaccines.
Announcing the funding this morning, Harris said: “I am delighted to be announcing the establishment of this important COVID-19 research partnership led by Trinity College Dublin, a world-leading academic institution in immunology.”
“Science and research have never been more important as the world faces a global pandemic.,” Harris continued. “We still have so much more to learn about this virus and this partnership will be key to addressing some of the key questions.”
On Saturday, Harris was appointed to the new ministerial position of Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science established under the coalition government between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party.
Harris said: “I congratulate all the researchers and clinicians for coming together, with the support of SFI and philanthropic and private sector organisations.”
“This is of national importance given the immense societal and economic impact of the current pandemic and will enable us to contribute solutions to the challenges we face,” he added.
Commenting on the funding, Professor Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology and Academic Director Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute said: “The funding of this research project by SFI and AIB has allowed the creation of a centre of excellence in the Immunology of COVID-19 where leading immunologists and clinicians at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, together with other partners, address key research questions designed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“A better understanding of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 will assist in the design of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the best long-term approach for containing the virus and preventing a recurrence,” Professor Mills continued. “The longer-term objective is to create a national research centre focused on the immunology of infection that will enable Ireland to be poised and better prepared, with the appropriately skilled and coordinated scientific and medical expertise, to deal with other infectious disease epidemics in the future.”
In April, AIB announced €2.4 million in funding to College to establish a research centre in College to “urgently accelerate” Trinity’s immunology project tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.