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New £8 million COVID-19 fund spurs UK-India collaboration

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India are launching a joint funding initiative. The project will support collaborative research focused on understanding the severity of COVID-19 in south Asian populations in India and the UK.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DBT and UKRI have made significant rapid investment in COVID-19 research.

Building on this strong base, through the Medical Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council, UKRI is investing £4 million to support the UK component, with matched equivalent resource provided by DBT in support of the Indian components.

This joint funding opportunity will support new research projects that are trying to understand the pandemic through the study of related ethnic groups in different environments in both countries.

Successful projects will focus on:

  • mechanistic studies of the disease and its sequela
  • virology, immunity and pathophysiology
  • epidemiology and behavioural science.

Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said:

In the UK emerging evidence shows that, after taking account of age and other sociodemographic factors, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as white people.

There is an urgent need for more data on why COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK and around the world.

Through the UKRI-DBT COVID-19 Partnership Initiative we hope to support collaborative UK-India research teams to investigate exactly that. We hope the findings from this new programme will help to mitigate the severity of COVID-19 in the UK and India.

Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary of DBT, said:

This joint programme builds on the strong foundation of India-UK research collaboration and is an opportunity to bring together our collective expertise to understand the severity of COVID-19 infection in south Asian populations of both India and the UK.

This pandemic has brought together scientific research groups nationally and globally to address key research questions.

Faced with one of the biggest challenges of our time, research from this DBT-UKRI collaboration will be important in understanding the differential response among these two populations. Improved understanding in this regard will empower us in planning more effective interventions to fight COVID-19 pandemic and any such events in future.

For more information on the funding, visit the UK-India COVID-19 partnership initiative webpage.

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