New £2.5m COVID-19 drug screening hub set up in Scotland

A new COVID-19 drug screening and resistance hub has been set up in Glasgow, Scotland.

The facility, which is based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), has now begun its work into ‘COVID-19-related activities’, including ‘antiviral innovation drug translation’.

Called CRUSH (COVID-19 Drug-Screening and Resistance Hub), the project has been boosted by £2.5 million in funding to ‘support and accelerate research’.

Around £2 million has come from medical research charity LifeArc, with further financial support from the Medical Research Council (MRC).

In addition to the pre-clinical drug screening and resistance assays for SARS-CoV-2, the ‘fully integrated hub’ will also work on other dangerous viruses, as it seeks to become a ‘national resource’, according to the University.

Glasgow’s hub will provide a combination of industrial screening capacity and high containment facilities, as well as availability of pre-clinical models and virology expertise. Other activities will include monitoring viruses on a global scale, and evaluating vaccine efficacy.

Professor Massimo Palmarini, Director of the CVR, said: “The establishment of CRUSH is an exciting development for the CVR and we are delighted to be partnering with LifeArc on this initiative.

“Whilst CRUSH activities will initially focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the CVR and the CRUSH facility are well positioned to rapidly respond to future viral outbreaks, delivering innovation to address public health crises caused by high consequence viruses. We look forward to working with academic and industry partners to develop CRUSH as a national facility.”

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, added: “The fight against COVID-19 requires world class scientists and world class labs. Scottish universities are some of the world’s best and their scientists are doing sterling work to research, understand and find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This funding recognizes the importance of their research and will enable them to continue working for the good not just of the UK, but of the world.”

As well as working with LifeArc, the University of Glasgow is also collaborating with the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit on the project.