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Thousands take part in Thames Valley COVID-19 research

Thousands take part in Thames Valley COVID-19 research

More than 9,400 participants took part in nationally-prioritised research studies into COVID-19 in Thames Valley and South Midlands last year.

A total 9,420 participants participated in 27 studies in NHS hospitals, GP practices and non-NHS settings such as care homes in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire.

These studies, called Urgent Public Health Studies, are supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and aim to help researchers prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19.

Since the pandemic began, the NIHR has helped recruit more than 600,000 UK participants to research, including:

  • 119 at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • 1,125 at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • 876 at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • 1,892 at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • 527 at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • 2,373 at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

A further 2,508 have taken part in studies at GP practices, care homes and the University of Oxford.

The studies include:

  • 1,500 Oxford volunteers into a University of Oxford vaccine which was found to be up to 90% effective following a global trial of 23,745 people and is now being rolled out across the NHS.
  • A further 721 out of 15,203 UK volunteers for a study by vaccine development company Novavax in Oxford and Reading. 
  • Enrolling hospitalised patients, including 791 in Thames Valley, into a trial into whether existing or new treatments can help improve survival. The RECOVERY trial this year reported that some drugs are not effective but one, steroid dexamethasone, can reduce deaths.
  • Collecting daily blood samples from 2,705 hospitalised patients to analyse the impact of the virus on the body and inform future treatments for the Clinical Characterisation Protocol for Severe Emerging Infection study.
  • 162 volunteers for the PRINCIPLE trial into existing treatments for older patients in the community with moderate symptoms of the disease or a positive test. Those with symptoms can register online at www.principletrial.org.   
  • 225 intensive care patients consented to provide DNA samples for the GenOMICC study, which is analysing whether a person’s genetic makeup influences how they react to coronavirus.
  • 132 pregnant women with symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive swab test consented to allow data about their care to be analysed to see if the virus can be transmitted to the baby or cause a miscarriage, fetal growth restriction and stillbirth (the Pregnancy and Neonatal Outcomes in COVID-19 study).
  • 238 who were tested at Berkshire and Oxfordshire care homes for the England-wide VIVALDI study into prevalence and how the infection spreads.

Prof Belinda Lennox, Clinical Director for the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands, which has enabled delivery of the studies, said: “People in our region have made a huge contribution to the success of COVID-19 research studies.

“This contribution ranges from volunteering to taking part in the pioneering vaccine studies through to trialling new treatments for the disorder when critically ill with COVID-19.

“The research that we have helped deliver is already saving lives across the world and has delivered safe and effective vaccines in record time. This is only possible because of all the people who gave their time to take part.”

While the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being rolled across the UK, it is important that clinical trials into other COVID-19 vaccines continue.

Different vaccines work in different ways and researchers still need to collect information about which work best, are best for different groups of people and on exactly how effective they are.

Information is also needed on the best way to use vaccines, the number of doses and there are no long-term safety concerns. People can register to be told of vaccine research studies seeking volunteers by visiting www.nhs.uk/researchcontact.