iiCON strengthens team with senior appointment

The Infection Innovation Consortium: iiCON has welcomed a new senior member to its team with the appointment of Professor Patryk Kot.

Professor Kot, a global expert in sensor technology, joins the consortium, which works propel the discovery and development of innovative treatments and products for infectious diseases, as Senior Business Development Manager.

iiCON, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), is comprised of partners Unilever, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, LifeArc, Evotec, and Infex Therapeutics.

Professor Kot, one of the youngest professors in the UK, joins iiCON from a role as Deputy Director of the Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies (BEST) Research Institute, and Professor of Microwave Sensor Technologies at Liverpool John Moores University.

The consortium has recently received £10 million in funding to develop what is believed to be the UK’s first Category 3 AI Robotic laboratory as part of the Liverpool City Region Health and Life Sciences Investment Zone. Investment Zone funding will support the development of the high-containment laboratories within LSTM capable of handling deadly pathogens and fitted out with leading-edge robotics and AI technology.

In his new role, Professor Kot will be a key part of an expert team that will specify and design the new laboratories. His expertise in sensors will support the development of new products in the iiCON portfolio, helping to commercialise industry innovations. He will also lead on the development of new partnerships, providing expertise and guidance on the best routes to market for the innovative products iiCON has developed to date.

His vast experience over a 12-year career includes leading a multidisciplinary research team in the design and development of bespoke microwave sensors for global challenges. His research team has developed microwave sensors for applications such as biohazards detection (DASA), healthcare applications (SBRI and UKRI), cultural heritage (Horizon 2020) and chemical process enhancement (Horizon 2020 FTI) with a total external funding award of over £25 million.

This experience includes working on a number of key projects through iiCON funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to explore the adaption of the fundamental concept of microwave spectroscopy for the detection of insecticide on walls for quality assurance of Governmental Indoor Residual Spraying programmes in low- and middle-income countries (India and Africa) to prevent vector borne diseases.

The developed prototype was manufactured in 2023 and the success of this project led to further external funding of £1.3 million from BMGF to explore the fundamental concept of microwave spectroscopy being applied as a wearable technology for the detection of Lymphatic filariasis in humans.   

Professor Patryk Kot said:

“I am delighted to be joining the iiCON team. I am eager to support the development of new products and contribute to the development of pioneering AI and robotics Category 3 laboratories, where technology comes together with scientific advancements through academia, research, and industry to combat global infectious diseases. An extraordinary opportunity to drive meaningfulchange.” 

Professor Janet Hemingway, iiCON’s founding director, said:

“Patryk is a leading expert in sensor technologies and we’re very pleased to be welcoming him to the iiCON team. His expertise and experience will help us drive forward next-generation technologies and support industry and academic co-innovation. Patryk will also be a key part of the team we are bringing together to support the design and develop of our next-generation Category 3 Robotic laboratories.”

Founded in 2020 with an £18.6m UK Government grant, iiCON brings together industry, academia and clinicians to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of new treatments and products for infectious diseases – saving and improving millions of lives across the world. The consortium has quickly grown into a £260m programme working with a global network of more than 800 companies.

By enabling industry access to world-leading facilities and expertise, it has supported 36 new products to market, with more than 5 billion units of life-saving products and treatments reaching communities across the world. It has also created 559 jobs and bolstered the region’s R&D infection spend by £700m.

KQ Liverpool shortlisted for social impact at national awards

KQ Liverpool has been named as a finalist in the Property Week Awards 2024.

We have been shortlisted in the Social Impact Initiative – Commercial Property category in recognition of our Future Innovators Programme and wider skills outreach work.

The programme works with local schools and school leaders to encourage pupils to gain a deeper understanding of the various pioneering projects taking place within KQ Liverpool and open their minds to the many potential career opportunities that may be available to them in future.

A full Future Innovators Programme prospectus can be found here.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London on 3 July. To find out more about the Property Week Awards and review this year’s other finalists, please click here.



Drones, swabs and robotic dogs feature in latest Future Innovators Programme tour

We were pleased to be joined by students from Cardinal Heenan School in West Derby as part of our Future Innovators Programme.

The programme encourages young people to learn about the innovation, science and technology career opportunities available in KQ Liverpool, with an aim of creating tangible aspirations. The programme works with Secondary school pupils and their career leads, physically bringing them into previously unopened areas within KQ Liverpool to demonstrate what’s on offer right on their doorstep.

The group of Sixth Form students took part in a tour of several facilities and were able to experience first-hand the incredible variety of innovation that takes place in our innovation district.

The day-long tour included visits to iiCON at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Digital Innovation Facility at University of Liverpool, Manufacturing Technology Centre at Liverpool Science Park and LJMU Built Environment, where a range of experts were on hand to kindly give their time to explain the work their organisations undertake and some of the career opportunities available within KQ Liverpool.



Change Makers Live returns to The Spine

More than 100 business leaders and representatives from across the Liverpool city region and beyond gathered for the second annual Change Makers Live Conference 2024 at The Spine, hosted by Downtown in Business.

Change Makers Live is a national business & innovation conference designed with the aim of exploring innovative solutions to the challenges facing the UK and global economy in the twenty-first century. This unique event invited some of the county’s leading entrepreneurs, academics, thinkers, and politicians to join us to discuss the key issues that are affecting businesses across sectors, not just in the UK, but around the world and start to offer innovative solutions to address these difficulties.

Speakers such as Jo Phillips, former adviser to both Paddy Ashdown and Bob Geldof and Nathan McNamara, chief executive DB3 Group joined us to give talks at the event, which was sponsored by Knowledge Quarter, BDP Design, Bruntwood SciTech, Connected Places Catapult, the House of Wisdom Group and Liverpool BID Company.

In the first talk of the day The Future is Co-operation, Rose Marley, chief executive Co-operatives UK, discussed how co-operation affects everything from AI to public funding and why it’s important to change makers.

KQ Liverpool’s assistant chief executive Emily Robson chaired an Innovative Design & Placemaking panel discussion, which brought together change makers Ged Clouser, principal architect, BDP Design, Colin Sinclair, chief executive of Sciontec and KQ Liverpool, Jessica Bowles director of strategy, Bruntwood SciTech, and Chris Bishop, Senior Project Manager, Muse to discuss Social Value In Place Making and how companies and new developments can contribute to their communities.

The How To Catapult Growth panel talk, facilitated by Alex Cousins, (business director of Connected Places Catapult) featured Rachael Stevens, (Knowledge Quarter Liverpool), Natalie Reeves-Billing, (Author), and Ruth Wood, (chief executive, Mersey Maritime) who discussed business growth and the best methods to foster and drive growth in various sectors and industries in the region.

Delegates enjoyed a delicious lunch before an insightful session with Tim Heatley, Co-Founder, Capital & Centric a ‘disruptor’ property development company, who shared some of his insights and experiences on current affairs in the property industry. He discussed regeneration and creating demand in a place where it doesn’t exist, and how this can help to rejuvenate a stagnant economy.

The conference ended with the important point that We Can’t All Be Scientists And Professors!, as we heard from Elaine Bowker (principal, City of Liverpool College), Sophie Gilmore (chief executive, HybridTec), Emily Robson and Steven Hesketh, Hospitality Hero, who discussed how diversity in sectors and careers is key.

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business, said:

“This year’s Change Makers Live Conference saw some amazing insights from our members and many of the delegates form valuable and long-lasting connections.”

£500k awarded for research to combat bird flu

The Pandemic Institute has come together with The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections (HPRU EZI) and the Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI) in Oxford, to award almost £500,000 for research on Avian Influenza, in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Avian Influenza, also known as Bird flu, is a virus that can cause illness in captive and wild birds, and also has the potential to spread to mammals including humans. Certain forms of the virus are termed ‘highly pathogenic’, which means they have greater potential to cause serious illness and even death. The aim of this funding is to address critical research gaps in Avian Influenza knowledge, especially highly pathogenic Avian Influenza, particularly in the following areas:

  • Diagnostics
  • Anti-virals
  • Vaccines
  • Mathematical modelling to better understand the disease evolution and spread
  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions e.g. behavioural changes

The funding will be distributed across eight projects from several organisations, including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, University of Oxford, all working alongside UKHSA, the government agency responsible for preventing, preparing for and responding to infectious diseases and environmental hazards.

Dr Carolina Arevalo, Deputy Director, Research, Evidence & Knowledge at UKHSA said:

“We are pleased to collaborate with The Pandemic Institute on this funding call, addressing key research needs and strengthening existing partnerships with university researchers.”

One of the funded projects will seek to develop ‘drug knowledge libraries’, using mathematical modelling to simulate the optimal dose of particular drugs during a future outbreak or pandemic.

Professor Saye Khoo, a Professor of Pharmacology, Therapeutics at the University of Liverpool said:

“This is an important first step in building capability to respond to any emerging virus should an outbreak occur. There is no guarantee that an antiviral licensed for one disease will necessarily achieve effective target concentrations for another virus or new variant, and having these libraries will further allow us to respond flexibly and adapt rapidly to emerging flu outbreaks.”

Dr Shaun Pennington will be working with colleagues from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine on a Controlled Human Infection Model, or CHIM, which is a research method where healthy volunteers are deliberately exposed to a specific pathogen, such as a virus or bacteria. This controlled exposure allows scientists to study how the pathogen interacts with the human body, including how the infection progresses over time, and how the immune system responds to the pathogen. CHIM studies play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of infection and disease and are now routinely used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.

“This funding will facilitate the development of a new CHIM using a weakened strain of temperature-sensitive avian influenza. This strain is particularly suited for CHIM as it can only replicate in the nose at cooler temperatures and cannot replicate in the lungs or cause illness. Through the establishment of this CHIM, we aim to significantly contribute to the development and evaluation of new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines, thereby enhancing the UK’s readiness to address future disease outbreaks.“

Other projects will focus on developing new diagnostic tests and mapping potential risk to humans. Dr Emily Nixon, a Lecturer in Mathematics for Healthcare at the University of Liverpool said:

“Understanding the spatial variation in risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds and poultry is crucial for assessing the risk of exposure to humans. This funding will allow us to map risk to poultry workers and the public, and will build on mathematical models developed at the University of Liverpool by Professor Sharkey.”

You can find a full list of awarded projects below.

About The Pandemic Institute
The Pandemic Institute’s is a unique collaboration of academic, civic and health partners, whose mission is to protect the world from emerging infections and pandemic threats. Launched in 2021, the Institute is formed of seven founding partners: The University of Liverpool (host organisation), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust, and Knowledge Quarter Liverpool.

Read more here.


Lead investigator and project titles:

Prof Saye Khoo, University of Liverpool: Modelling drug knowledge libraries for pandemic/avian flu
Dr Shaun Pennington, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine:  A controlled human infection model of avian influenza
Dr Shaun Pennington, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine: A pre-clinical pipeline for avian influenza therapeutics
Dr Emily Nixon, Professor Kieran Sharkey, University of Liverpool: Modelling transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and mapping potential risk to humans

The Pandemic Institute to host Pint of Science event

Join The Pandemic Institute this May as it explores just what is so special about Liverpool, and why as a city we are leading the way in tackling infectious diseases.

Pint of Science is an annual event that takes place across three nights, in 42 cities in the UK, and in 25 countries across the world. This is the 7th year Pint of Science has taken place in Liverpool, and it has now expanded across the city and over to the Wirral. The sell-out events allow Liverpool-based researchers to share their work with members of the public, from the Mersey Marvels that trailblazed healthcare in Liverpool, to deep-sea mining and the use of AI in justice. There really is something for everyone!

The Pandemic Institute’s evening will take place on Tuesday 14th May, at Leaf on Bold Street, and will be hosted by Director Professor Tom Solomon, CBE. Liverpool has a proud history of excellence in public health and infectious diseases research, and Tom will lead a whistle-stop tour of Liverpool, from the 1832 cholera pandemic in the slums of Liverpool, to our modern-day firsts in fighting emerging infections.

One such innovative piece of work is the development of new diagnostic tests, and Dr Caitlin Thompson (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine) will join us to talk about her work, making a lateral flow test for one of the world’s most dangerous viruses (Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever). Rounding off the night, Professor Kay O’Halloran will discuss her work with Liverpool’s ‘digital twin’, and the importance of digital media to ensure that communities can make informed decisions during times of extreme risk.

With up to £800 million being invested in our region over the next 10 years to supercharge health and life sciences, Liverpool is an exciting place to be for world-leading scientific research.   

To book your tickets for The Pandemic Institute Pint of Science night, click here.

The festival will take place in Liverpool on the 13th – 15th May 2024, to see the full range of events, click here.