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The initial focus will be on the Nipah virus which can spread between animals and people. The virus has a high mortality rate and there are currently no approved vaccines or treatments. 

The Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI) at the University of Oxford and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have agreed to work jointly to study dangerous pathogens that could cause future pandemics. The pathogens represent a threat to global health and security, whether naturally occurring or used as a weapon.

The University of Oxford has established the Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI) to ensure the world is better equipped to prepare for, identify and counter future pandemic threats, including pathogens that require high containment facilities for their research. Dstl has high containment capabilities and extensive experience handling high consequence pathogens.

The agreement will provide PSI with access to Dstl’s high containment laboratories to enable it to work with high threat viruses included in the UK Government priority pathogen list. Dstl will gain from access to external expertise with the potential for staff secondments and joint mentoring.

The initial focus of collaboration will be on the Nipah virus which can spread between animals (bats and pigs) and people. The virus is most prevalent in parts of Asia, primarily Bangladesh and India, with a high mortality rate and currently no approved vaccines or treatments. PSI and Dstl may jointly fund a PhD programme for up to 4 years to better understand how the virus infects its host, with a view towards developing new antiviral treatments.

Other work may include:

  • research into the development of medical countermeasures for known and unknown high priority threats and their broader pathogen families
  • collaboration on non-high containment pathogens
  • joint applications for funding programmes.

Professor Sir Peter Horby, Director of the Pandemic Sciences Institute, said: “This new partnership will accelerate vital research on dangerous emerging pathogens, such as Nipah virus, that cause death and disease in many parts of the world and threaten global health security. Working together in this way, with access to high containment labs and sharing skills and expertise between our organisations, will help ensure the world is better prepared to counter future pandemic threats.”

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