Monkeypox research receives half a million pounds boost

The Pandemic Institute has awarded nearly £500,000 to Liverpool researchers to help tackle the growing threat of monkeypox, including a Liverpool City Council research project that will look at how mixed messaging around the outbreak may have added to stigma.

Funded projects will include research on the origins of the outbreak in Africa, studies of transmission and spread, development of rapid diagnostics, investigation of the body’s immune response to help vaccine development, studies of new drug treatments, and understanding of stigma around the disease.

Monkeypox is usually found in West and Central Africa but an increasing number of cases have been identified elsewhere including the UK and the World Health Organization has now classified the outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern”, putting monkeypox on par with diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola and polio.

Liverpool City Council will now partner with LSTM (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), local sexual health services and charitable organisations such as Sahir House on a project that aims to look at the competing and mixed messages associated with monkeypox in our communities and how this might have added to stigma (and thrown up barriers) associated with the virus.

Advanced Public Health Practitioner, James Woolgar, who is leading the project said “During a disease outbreak, stigmatisation can prevent the adoption of healthy behaviours and lead to ongoing transmission, and challenges in controlling infectious diseases.

Our project will look to identify barriers and facilitators to accessing healthcare, in this case particularly for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) – through the lens of the current monkeypox outbreak.

We aim to gather insight that helps us to develop improved methods of communication with key parts of our population, including GBMSM, to achieve better health outcomes.”

Director of Public Health for Liverpool, Professor Matthew Ashton said “Liverpool has a rich history of delivering bold public health interventions, and this funding shows the ongoing commitment to delivering an innovative response to pandemics on an international scale.

Liverpool City Council is a founding member of the Pandemic Institute, and is part of a local steering group, which will continue to strengthen partnerships across health, education and local authorities in the city. “

About the funding call, Professor Tom Solomon CBE, Chair of Neurology at the University of Liverpool and Director of The Pandemic Institute (TPI) as well as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections said: “We are currently dealing with an unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox in the UK and beyond. It is important for us to respond quickly to this emerging threat. In just a matter of weeks The Pandemic Institute has identified, via a peer review process, eleven high-priority projects to address this new threat, and respond to the G7 challenge of producing diagnostics, treatments and vaccines within 100 days of a major emerging infection.

This monkeypox funding call has a total budget of £484,257 and covers all TPI domain principles to “Predict, Prevent, Prepare, Respond and Recover” from emerging infection threats.”

For more information about The Pandemic Institute and/or the Monkeypox Pump Priming Research Call visit thepandemicinstitute.org

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