£1.9m funding to advance understanding of links between chronic infections and non-communicable diseases

The project will provide a new resource for global researchers to investigate risk factors for, and consequences of, chronic infections
Dr Charlotte Warren Gash said: "This funding will enable us to answer critical questions about the relationships between chronic infections and NCDs."

Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash has been awarded £1.9 million by Open Philanthropy to investigate the potential impact of chronic infections on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease and dementia.

The five-year project will be carried out as a partnership between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Oxford and the German Cancer Research Center.

Understanding the role of chronic infections such as herpesviruses in NCDs is of major public health importance, as preventing and treating infections could potentially reduce the burden of some NCDs. This may be through developing vaccines, extending recommendations for vaccines, encouraging vaccine uptake, or treatment of infections with antivirals.

The project will use UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database, containing in-depth genetic, lifestyle and health information from half a million UK participants. Using this data, experts will aim to determine the prevalence of chronic infections among different groups of people, and how this might affect risk of major NCDs including mental illness, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia.

Currently, there are no other population-based studies of this size with chronic infections measured at scale. However, this work will generate a robust framework for defining chronic infections using multiple data streams that can be applied to other health questions.

Dr Warren-Gash, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at LSHTM, said: “I’m delighted to receive this generous award from Open Philanthropy to fund our research on chronic infections in UK Biobank. The funding will enable us to generate novel infection data in order to answer critical questions about the relationships between chronic infections and a range of NCDs.

“Better understanding these links could provide new options to reduce the global burden of NCDs by tackling infectious triggers. Open Philanthropy’s funding will provide an invaluable resource for researchers studying chronic infections at scale.”

Valerie Boulet, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at LSHTM, said: “Open Philanthropy’s generous donation will support unique scientific contributions and provide much needed investment into chronic infections. We are truly grateful for this support and its flexibility which ensures our experts focus on new discoveries with the potential to benefit the greater research community.”

Open Philanthropy identifies outstanding giving opportunities, makes grants, follows the results, and publishes its findings. Its mission is to give as effectively as it can and share the findings openly so that anyone can build on them.

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