A new Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) will fund the development of effective assay system approaches to measuring cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2. The competition is part of the Covid-19 National Core Studies programme.


The competition aims to develop effective approaches to measuring human cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 natural infection or vaccines, to improve both clinical management and vaccine deployment. Funding is exclusively available for technical feasibility studies.

Assays that qualitatively and quantitatively measure the antibodies that recognise and neutralise SARS-CoV-2 are already available. However, assays to measure cellular immune responses rapidly and reproducibly are more limited.

Therefore, projects must develop a novel assay system that can define the magnitude and profile of T-cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the project should focus on assays that work in a clinical or laboratory setting, whilst considering the ease, speed and reproducibility of sample preparation. Specifically, assays that use whole blood rather than requiring complex cell separation protocols are a priority.

Specific Themes

All projects must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Have a defined and justified intended use (research, clinical or diagnostic) for the assay
  • Identify, justify and if required validate the biomarkers or cellular characteristics you propose to measure
  • Develop or evaluate a sample preparation and assay format able to sample and measure the biomarkers or cellular characteristics with the required performance, test procedure and operational characteristics for the intended use

Projects can start from 1st October 2021 and should last between 1 and 12 months. With £1.5 million available, Innovate UK expects to fund 3 projects with total eligible costs of up to £700k.  Organisations of any size can lead a project. Contracts will only be awarded to single legal entities, but you can work with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors.

For more information, visit the Innovate UK competition page. Alternatively, please contact us if you’d like to discuss an application with one of our advisers.

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