Partnerships countering the Covid-19 pandemic

PPE-and-lab
Testing, research, PPE, personal support and more; the University of Birmingham community is responding to Covid-19 which has seen our existing partnerships work in new and vital ways.

Last updated: Tuesday 12 May 2020

The University of Birmingham is proud to be able to support our NHS and regional partners during the COVID-19 crisis.  

From boosting laboratory testing capacity, coordinating clinical trials of new interventions to providing practical support to NHS workers; many of our academic clinicians are now working full time in the NHS fighting this disease. The Birmingham Health Partners alliance between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Women's & Children's and University Hospitals has allowed us to adapt and work in partnership in new and vital ways.

Our researchers are collaborating to produce regular COVID-19 briefings based on the latest literature to support clinical colleagues and disseminate key information.

Here, we outline how the University of Birmingham is supporting NHS and regional partners. We'll keep this article updated with new developments as they occur so do check back in with us.

  • Backed by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, experts from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh are joining forces with non-profit, commercial and academic partners to begin investigating the scale of challenge involved in distributing a potentially temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Professor Alan McNally, Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection - one of the UK’s highest performing infection and microbiology institutes - has been seconded to the Milton Keynes lab as Infectious Disease lead
  • Researchers from the Healthcare Technologies Institute and staff from Hugo Technology and MRA Technology have joined together to support the supply and deployment of vital medical equipment into the healthcare system.
  • Birmingham experts are working together on improving detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies – the best way of fighting the disease as the search for a vaccine continues.
  • Our expertise in 3D printing has been put to use to make face visors to be used by frontline medical staff in Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The design is taken from a commercially tested blueprint from 3D manufacturer PrusaPrinters, based in the Czech Republic.
  • A Disposable Resuscitation, Intubation and Nebulisation Kit Shield – or DRs INK Shield - is a compact device designed by UoB experts to cover the patient’s head, neck and shoulder area while treatments for COVID-19 are administered.
  • We are working closely with Public Health England to increase capacity for COVID-19 testing in the region and helping to run one of the national testing hubs.
  • Developing and delivering new interventions for COVID-19 both locally and as part of NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) funded national consortia.
  • Leading a central hub called PIONEER, collecting electronic health data nationally to help us understand the progress of the pandemic and how it impacts on both COVID and non-COVID patients.
  • We are leading the national drive to develop and test new ventilators that are so badly needed to save the worst affected patients.
  • The College of Medical and Dental Sciences is working with other medical schools and the GMC (General Medical Council) to bring forward qualification for our final year medical students which will allow them to work as fully-fledged doctors by the end of April.
  • Student nurses and physiotherapists are supporting the NHS with many third-year student nurses taking further responsibility through the Nursing and Midwifery Council's provisional register.
  • Students have set up two new groups on Facebook to leverage support for the NHS, as part of nationwide initiatives. The 'Birmingham Med Students For Action' are volunteering their time to join the frontline and the 'Birmingham Medical Students Helping Hands' are offering support to NHS workers by providing childcare and running errands.
  • The University is coordinating collections of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to donate to the NHS.
  • The Edgbaston Park Hotel is providing accommodation for NHS staff with the whole hotel operation focused on supporting key workers.
  • One of the University's nurseries remains open, supporting key workers by caring for up to 30 children daily. Without this nursery provision, there would be up to 60 key workers unable to carry out critical frontline work.
  • The University's West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute (WMREDI) and City-REDI are examining the potential economic and social impacts of COVID-19 on our region. Professor Simon Collinson, DPVC for Regional Economic Engagement and Director of WMREDI, is also a member of the WMCA Mayor's COVID-19 Economic Impact Response Group.

Support from University of Birmingham spinout companies

  • The Native Antigen Company was amongst the first commercial suppliers to produce antigens for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), and is now collaborating with Oxgene™ to increase the production of antigens that will be used to develop diagnostics and vaccines.  Further news from this spinout can be found online here and here. Follow @nativeantigen on Twitter for updates.

  • Alta Bioscience provides a peptide synthesising service – including peptide antigens for antibody generation – and this service remains fully staffed.  The company is still able to meet the fast turnaround time for the majority of their customers. Follow @AltaBioscience on Twitter.

  • Abingdon Health is mobilising its rapid test development and manufacturing operations in order to scale-up the deployment of rapid diagnostics in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak and is recruiting for experienced scientists to join the York (UK) team. Follow @Abingdon_Health on Twitter.

Read Covid-19 updates from across our Colleges:
Medical and Dental Sciences
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Social Sciences
Life and Environmental Sciences
Arts and Law

A note on restricted campus operations 

The majority of University of Birmingham buildings are closed with most staff working remotely until a tentative date of 1 June. While the majority of students have already returned home and will remain at home until campus returns to normal operations, we are keeping student residences open, supporting students who are unable to return home. All teaching is taking place online, and students can contact tutors and each other via a range of channels including discussion boards, email, skype or telephone. We have also developed a framework for the summer exam assessment period to be delivered online during the original summer exam period in May/June.


Keep in touch

You can contact the Business Engagement team by email to businessteam@contacts.bham.ac.uk. On social media, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates and stories from our research and industry community.

The University's statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19) is updated regularly, in line with the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE). Our frequently asked questions (FAQs) are also updated regularly.

You can also find out more about our research relating to COVID-19.