The Medical Research Council, aN AFFILIATE of UK Research and Innovation, has announced a new funding opportunity to target Covid variants.

MRC announced the funding, stating that ‘SARS-CoV-2 continues to rage across the planet and the emergence of increasingly transmissible variants has highlighted that currently available tools are not sufficient to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘While vaccination has offered good protection against severe disease, there is clear evidence of waning protection against infection with the likely emergence of further variants capable of eluding vaccine-elicited protection.’

MRC added that continued reliance on vaccines with ‘short-lived or limited efficacy will remain a significant drain on public finances and may increasingly present challenges of compliance and delivery. It is therefore critical to support the development of next-generation vaccines with broader, more durable and, optimally, transmission-blocking efficacy.’

MRC’s statement included a commitment to launch a proactive vaccinology opportunity in Autumn 2022 to support research aiming to anticipate and block the spread of new variants. The available budget for the opportunity is £16 million.

The funding available, MRC said, ‘will support the creation of two consortia, for five years. These will focus on complementary themes that reflect critical knowledge gaps which are currently precluding the development of next-generation vaccines: fundamental virology – drivers and impact of variant emergence; and underpinning immunology to support vaccinology.

The workshop on 22 September aims to facilitate engagement between attendees and provide an opportunity for them to discuss ideas and identify potential partners for their consortia applications.

MRC will also articulate the scope, timeline and expectations for the upcoming call during the event. Information on the call will also be available on the UK Research and Innovation website after the workshop.