The Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) is a global centre for infectious disease R&D and created 176 high-value jobs in the North West of the UK.
The consortium has raised £154.9 million in public and private investment in its first year – creating a £173.5 million programme.
The collaborative R&D programme is led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK. It aims to reduce the global burden of infectious disease – saving and improving millions of lives 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, iiCON has launched collaborative partnerships with over 186 UK SMEs and start-ups alongside projects with global industry giants including Pfizer and Unilever. The consortium has also invested £9.4 million in local capacity and workforce development.
Bringing together industry, research and the UK’s 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 support from organisations including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council.
iiCON’s founding Director, Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, 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.”
Professor Hemingway continued: “Poorly-resourced SMEs are our primary wellspring of innovation in new antimicrobial development. Identifying, supporting and connecting the most innovative of these companies with appropriate expertise, infrastructure, and financial backing to navigate the high-cost and high-risk product development journey and accelerate new products to market is at the heart of our vision. “We’re delighted to have forged strong partnerships with organisations across the globe, brokered impactful collaborations, supported companies of all sizes, and enabled access to world-class expertise and infrastructure to ensure products are accelerated from discovery to market and reach patients and communities quickly, safely, and affordably.”
An iiCON trial testing efficacy of mosquito nets treated with insecticide/synergist combinations has shaped the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for malaria prevention. While a rapid Covid-19 antigen test, validated by researchers at LSTM through iiCON is being used to deliver large-scale testing in key areas of need across Africa as part of a major FIND and UNITAID programme. The consortium is also working with the Malawian Government and the Wellcome Trust to provide data that is shaping the country’s Covid-19 policy response.
Professor David Lalloo, Director Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “Partnership and co-innovation are absolutely critical if we are to meet the global challenge posed by infectious diseases and emerging pandemics. The consortium’s growth speaks to the scale of the need – it has never been more important that the global community work together to support innovation, strengthen our anti-infectives pipeline, and bolster our response to emerging pandemics and resistant infections.”