Launched in Liverpool a year ago iiCON is a consortium of scientists and businesses that aim to build global pandemic resilience and it has raised £173m and created 176 jobs. Tony McDonough reports
A Liverpool-based partnership between science and business that aims to build global pandemic resilience has secured £173m and created 176 jobs in its first year.
Since launching in September 2020, the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) has established itself as a leading global centre for infectious disease R&D. It was founded with an £18.6m grant from the Government’s Strength in Places Fund.
Since then the consortium, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), has raised an additional £154.9m in public and private investment in its first year – creating a £173.5m programme and a raft of high value jobs.
iiCON aims to to reduce the global burden of infectious disease by working with industry, academia and clinicians to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of new treatments and products for patients and communities.
Over the last 12 months, it has launched collaborative partnerships with more than 186 UK SMEs and start-ups alongside projects with global industry giants including Pfizer and Unilever. The consortium has also invested £9.4m in local capacity and workforce development.
It is bringing together industry, research and the NHS to drive forward collaborative innovation. iiCON’s partner members are Unilever, Evotec, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, and Infex Therapeutics.
The programme has also attracted significant support from organisations including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council.
Founding director, Professor Janet Hemingway, said: “iiCON was founded in response to the formidable global challenge posed by infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and emerging pandemics.
“Since our launch in 2020, the consortium’s model of partnership-led co-innovation has enabled a remarkable impact both in terms of driving forward innovation and bringing new products to market, but also in shaping health policy at a regional, national, and global level – saving and improving millions of lives.”
Operating across 10 specialist research platforms able to pivot to handle any infectious disease, the consortium is designed to drive innovation and provide pandemic resilience. The last year has seen iiCON accelerate the development of new treatments and preventions for COVID-19 and a other important infectious diseases.
Its contributions to the global COVID effort include co-developing a new model organoid that replicates the impact of COVID-19 on the lungs more accurately than traditional plate bioassays, with the UK SME Newcells BioTech. This innovation will be used to screen more targeted treatments for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
Professor David Lalloo, director LSTM, added: “iiCON has had an incredible first year. As lead partner, we’re delighted with the programme’s impact in enabling collaboration and driving forward world-changing innovation in infection research and development that will ultimately help to save and improve the lives of millions of people.”