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Wessex fellows collaborate to support COVID-19 vaccine trials

Wessex fellows collaborate to support COVID-19 vaccine trials

Wessex research fellows pull together on the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine trials, as part of a large team of healthcare professionals and research staff.

Southampton is one of several UK sites delivering the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trials, developed and run by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. The trials aim to assess the safety and the immune response it generates across a broad range of ages, with the ultimate aim of understanding its potential to protect from coronavirus infection.

With recruitment to the phase I trial complete, over 4,000 participants have already been enrolled across the UK, including over 750 from the Southampton area.

Wessex research fellows are now supporting delivery of the next two phases. Dr Bryony Jones, a Rheumatology Research Fellow from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, explains:

“A call came through from our research department that Southampton needed fellows to help with the COV001 and COV002 vaccine trials. I was delighted to have the chance to take part in a Phase 1 trial of such critical importance.

“The experience of taking part in a large scale screening and administration of a new drug was immensely valuable, and meeting research fellows from a wide range of specialty and experiences was very interesting.

“I feel that taking part in this trial broadened my concept of what was possible in clinical research, and opened my eyes to the wide range of resources we have available when there is the motivation and organisation to take advantage of them.”

Dr Dan Owens, a Clinical Research Fellow and Paediatric Registrar at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), added:

“It has been really exciting to be part of such a large and critically important study which will hopefully have huge benefits both nationally and globally. We are all experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown but being part of a trial that could reverse this is a real thrill.

“The trial is very dynamic and the workload is large so the research fellows have had to work together as one team to help deliver it. As one of the core research fellows working on the study, it has been fantastic to have research fellows from different specialties and trusts join our team.

“Vaccine trials at the NIHR Clinical Research Facility are usually delivered by 1-2 research fellows alongside a small nursing team over 1-2 years, however this trial has been delivered on a far larger scale. On some days we have needed up to five doctors and the study visits are currently taking place all day for three days per week.

“We could not have delivered this without the help of all the research fellows who have joined us.  Working on such a large project can be draining, the enthusiasm of the fellows who have joined has really helped to give us renewed energy for the task!”

Wessex-wide collaboration has been key to the successful delivery of the trial. Dr Katrina Cathie, a Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex Divisional Lead and a Consultant in General Paediatrics and Paediatric Research at UHS, explains:

“CRN research fellows from around Wessex have been working collaboratively, many outside of their usual roles, in order to support the delivery of urgent public health COVID-19 vaccine trials in Southampton.

“Alongside other professionals from around the region, staff resources have been shared to enable the delivery of high recruiting screening and vaccination days for these priority studies.

“The CRN fellows have been flexible and adaptable, using their experience in research to benefit the participants in these studies. It has been great to see them working so well together and supporting each other, sharing knowledge and experience.

“This model has huge potential when considering future ways of working and delivery of research across the region. It has been very encouraging to see the fellows (our research leaders of the future) working so flexibly in this way.

“They will undoubtedly have learnt a huge amount, as well as shared their own knowledge and expertise with their colleagues from other specialities as they have worked together on these studies.”

Professor Saul Faust, CRN Wessex Clinical Director and Principal Investigator for the trial in Southampton, added:

"The delivery of COVID vaccine trials across the UK is huge activity that would not be possible without the support and collaboration of huge numbers of people, teams and organisations. The Oxford vaccine trials in Wessex are supported not just by the CRN but also the NIHR Clinical Research Facility and Biomedical Research Centre in Southampton, UHS, the University of Southampton and many of our partner Trusts.”

To find out more about the trial, which has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), please visit https://covid19vaccinetrial.co.uk/.