N8 universities join the fight to combat the coronavirus


Scientists and researchers across the N8 Research Partnership have joined the fight to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and future pandemics.


The N8 universities are playing a key role in helping to reduce the burden of COVID-19 both at a regional and national level:


  • The universities of Liverpool and Sheffield have joined the £20 million COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium. The group will analyse the genetic code of COVID-19 samples circulating in the UK by looking at the whole virus genome in confirmed cases to monitor changes in the virus and understand how the virus is spreading and whether different strains are emerging.


  • Researchers from the University of Manchester have joined a rapid response research group to find ways to beat COVID-19 and help to save lives. The group will harness the power of hundreds of researchers from the university as well as clinical colleagues at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group.


  • Durham University researchers are looking into whether dogs could play a role in preventing the spread of coronavirus. The university is working with charity Medical Detection Dogs and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to test if specifically-trained dogs can detect the virus.


  • Medical students at Newcastle University are giving NHS staff a helping hand during the coronavirus outbreak. A team of fourth and final year Newcastle University students have set up the North East group of Medical Students Helping Hands – which is a national initiative.


  • An expert from the University of York has co-authored a report used by the World Health Organisation to develop its new ethical guidelines for research on COVID-19. Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, based within the Department of History, co-authored the WHO guidelines, which outline key universal ethical standards which should be adhered to by researchers during the COVID-19 outbreak, have been issued to all its 194 member states.


  • The University of Leeds is marshalling world-leading expertise and equipment as well as influential networks in the collaborative fight against the virus. It has also volunteered its campus, opening up pathology and microbiology laboratories in the School of Medicine and contributing staff and equipment to give additional capacity for diagnostic testing in support of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.


  • A student at Lancaster University has created a new web application which allows people to track how the COVID-19 epidemic is unfolding in their area. The app was created by Max Eyre, a PHD student in Epidemiology & Global Health, and is based on data from Johns Hopkins CSSE and Public Health England and plots the number of cases across countries as well as UK regions and local authorities.


Dr Annette Bramley, Director of N8, said: “This is an incredibly challenging time for the UK and the rest of the world as it fights to cope with the immense strain that COVID-19 has placed on the global economy and health services.

“This is why it’s so important that the academic community has stepped up to aid the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The North is home to world-leading scientists and researchers and our universities have a major role to play in helping the world to understand more about the disease, to look at how we can monitor and slow its spread and how we can manage the long-term impact that the pandemic will have on our communities.”