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North East Research staff praised for efforts in Falcon-MoonShot study

Falcon C-19 (Facilitating Accelerated CLinical evaluation Of Novel diagnostic tests for COVID-19) is an Urgent Public Health study (UPH), led by Kimberley Webster. It has been recruiting very successfully since early July at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Newcastle Hospitals), with the site being one of the top recruiters nationally.

At the request of the Government, the study was deemed high priority to investigate the critical implementation of point of care testing. On the 8th of September, the UK Department of Health tasked the FALCON C-19 team in Manchester with finding a solution for COVID-19 testing in the UK. The Falcon-Moonshot: Workstream B project was rapidly implemented to analyse current COVID-19 testing and evaluate the use of new 30-minute devices at testing centres, with the aim of quickening turnaround times of results.

The Falcon MoonShot protocol received full ethical approval on September 15th and the first participant was recruited by Manchester on September 18th. The Newcastle Great Park team was initiated on the 30th Sept and recruited its first participant on the 1st October. They went on to recruit the highest number of participants (123) across the 15 nationwide testing sites before Falcon-Moonshot study closed on 23rd October.

A team consisting of staff and volunteers from across the CRN North East and North Cumbria, St Johns Ambulance, Newcastle Hospitals, Newcastle University and Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust worked together on the study.

The initial target for Falcon MoonShot was 200 participants. However, the study went on to recruit a total of 878 participants, all of which were approached from testing centres across the UK. This fantastic recruitment has allowed the analysis of two additional lateral flow tests with the priority now on confirming, as quickly as possible, if each of the tests is acceptable or not for further use in community, hospital or other settings.

Dr Ashley Price, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and Falcon-MoonShot Principal Investigator, Newcastle Hospitals, said: “I was particularly impressed with the speed and efficiency with which the study was set up. The flexibility of the team and ability to tackle problems and work out safe pathways was excellent.

“The teamwork was incredible to see, with a very rapid set up and interaction with student and St John Ambulance volunteers amongst others. Results were produced immediately and will be hugely important to enable in-context validation of point of care tests.

“The team pulled together at all levels to deliver this study.”

Susan Ridge, Research Delivery Manager, NIHR Clinical Research Network North East & North Cumbria, explained: “The Team working on this UPH study have been amazing. The team, led by Barbara Wilson and Beverly Buck, was very quickly put together and worked tirelessly at the testing centre come rain, wind and sun. They were supported by Cara Tomas Smith and Vicki Wilson who did a fantastic job on the consenting.

“Bertie Rowell and David Green then supported delivery, with further help from students and a St Johns Ambulance Staff.

“We take great pride in the impact of our collaborative and determined research workforce to contribute to the success of the MoonShot project.”

Professor Richard Body, Falcon-MoonShot Chief Investigator, added: “Our MoonShot launch site teams have been pivotal and have all been quite simply amazing. They have all stood up very quickly and delivered on this research program analysing COVID-19 testing.

“From the Project Management Group (PMG), we are very clear, the legacy that they have left behind will be used positively in the UK to bring more COVID-19 tests to the UK.”

Laboratory scientists and a data analytical team working as part of the Falcon-MoonShot study will now begin the next stage of the study, further investigating into the effectiveness of the new 30-minute MoonShot devices.