The LSTM-led consortium, iiCON: Infection Innovation Consortium, has supported 11 new products to market since launching in September 2020, with a further 16 in the development pipeline.
iiCON is designed to support the discovery, development, and deployment of new products and treatments for infectious diseases. The consortium works with companies of all sizes to support new product development by providing access to world-leading research expertise, market intelligence, and cutting-edge facilities.
Led by LSTM, its consortium partners are Unilever, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, Evotec, and Infex Therapeutics.
Over its first year and a half of operations, iiCON has supported several innovative products being brought to market and has worked with over 50 industry partners including CN Bio, Unilever, Mologic, Sanofi, Pfizer, Newcells Biotech and Sentinel.
iiCON supports companies at all stages of the innovation journey, from early-stage conceptual work, through to clinical trials, manufacturing, market positioning and product placement – helping fast-track new products and treatments to patients and communities.
Key products the consortium has supported to market include the first Covid-19 lateral flow test for asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic people developed by Excalibur Healthcare; a rapid COVID-19 lateral flow test for diagnostics company Mologic Ltd that is now being rolled out across key areas of need in Africa; an affordable, environmentally-friendly disinfectant, Virusend, that inactivates coronavirus in 60 seconds for the Ministry of Defence; and a Unilever mouthwash formulation containing CPC technology that inactivates SARS-CoV-2 within 30 seconds.
Datasets generated by iiCON were also used to secure international approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield COVID-19 human vaccine against COVID.
iiCON partners have developed a hand-held sensor device that leverages sensor technology in the battle to eliminate some of the world’s deadliest vector-borne diseases, including Malaria and Visceral leishmaniasis. Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the new diagnostic tool is the result of a collaboration that brings together the expertise of iiCON lead partner LSTM, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), and a Merseyside SME design partner 4D Products Ltd.
The consortium is working to super-charge regional innovation and has worked with many Merseyside SMEs to accelerate their product development and overcome barriers to market. For example, iiCON is helping to bring the next generation of anti-COVID air sterilisers to market. The consortium is working with Merseyside company DBFA to carry out expert testing on its innovative COVID UV-C air sterilisation unit, the Sentinel M320.
Alongside its work supporting product development, iiCON is playing a key role in working with industry and policy makers to support innovative solutions to global health challenges and optimally position health interventions and products in key settings.
The consortium has conducted large-scale trials into the protection offered by insecticide treated mosquito nets. The iiCON supported trial found that mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide treated nets (PBO LLINs) offered more protection against malaria than conventional nets. This work has supported industry innovation and shaped the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for malaria prevention.
Following this important work, more than a third of the millions of treated mosquito nets distributed in Africa in 2021 were PBO nets. iiCON’s research enabled the uptake of this innovative, game-changing product developed by industry, which is now helping to protect communities and save lives.
It is estimated that the improved nets have saved the lives of hundreds of children under 5 years, who would otherwise have died of malaria.
The consortium is now working closely with global health company Vestergaard to enhance the design of its PBO nets to make them even more effective against malaria-carrying mosquitos. These nets will be part of a large scale randomised control trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo later this year, helping to fast-track a new generation of bednet design to communities and saving more lives.
iiCON Director, Professor Janet Hemingway, said: “Working to support industry innovation that moves the dial in terms of health outcomes for global communities is at the heart of iiCON’s purpose. We accelerate product development and prevent healthcare innovation from stalling due to avoidable barriers, such as lack of access to specialist testing required to secure regulatory approval. We are constantly focused on developing impactful partnerships that will enable companies of all sizes to benefit from the world-leading R&D support iiCON can offer at all stages of the innovation journey.
“Through our partners, we have a fantastic array of expertise and world-class research facilities available to support companies working on pioneering products and treatments for infectious diseases. iiCON’s impact in our first 18 months speaks to the power of the programme and is testament to the combined capability of our consortium partners in supporting innovation.
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the number of products that have already made it through to market – saving millions of lives and ensuring that industry innovation is cutting through and having an impact on the patients and communities most in need.”