Joint Research Office


COVID-19 research studies rapidly opened at UCLH

7 April 2020

9 Covid-19 research studies are already taking place at UCLH and the Trust is processing over 30 study proposals as research efforts around the virus and pandemic are ramped up.

All other studies, unless they involve treatment essential for serious or life-threatening conditions, have been paused. The NIHR biomedical research centre at UCLH is fast tracking Covid-19 study approvals and redeploying staff in a bid to fight the virus.

UCLH is working on a wide range of trials, some trialling new or repurposed treatments, some observing how the disease develops, and others collating information to get a wider picture on the course of the disease. Some studies have been initiated by UCLH and UCL, and others are part of national and international work.

The research includes:

  • Involvement in two global trials of the drug remdesivir – originally developed as an Ebola drug.
  •  Contributing clinical information to the ISARIC World Health Organisation study into severe infections – initially set up to understand the MERS outbreak in 2012.
  • The nationally-prioritised RECOVERY trial, to see if potential drug treatments can affect survival and the need for ventilation.
  • A study looking at pregnant women hospitalised with Covid-19 to inform guidance for women and maternity staff and identifying factors linked with better outcomes for women and their babies.
  • The SAFER study looking at rates of Covid-19 infection among healthcare workers. UCLH front-facing healthcare staff including nurses, clinicians, nursing assistants, pharmacists and ward clerks in different wards and units are being invited to take part in this study.

Around 10% of existing clinical research at UCLH is still running because it involves patients whose health could be seriously put at risk if they were withdrawn from their trial drug.

The UCLH Research Directorate’s Covid-19 Response Group is encouraging the rapid submission of Covid-19 research proposals and is fast-tracking approvals and funding for prioritised studies. The group also considers the compassionate use of experimental treatments for COVID-19 patients where appropriate.

Professor Bryan Williams, Director of the Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH, Physician and UCL Professor of Medicine, said: “As you would expect from a leading academic centre and NHS hospital, we have so many scientific proposals and ideas for studies coming through, many from clinicians and clinical academics at the frontline, working hard for their patients. Because this is a new disease it has never been more important for academia embedded in the clinical service to take forward learnings from our research in real time and hopefully develop game-changing treatments for the most seriously ill patients.”

The BRC has gathered together a research delivery team and more than 40 research nurses, midwives, data analysts and support staff across UCLH specialties have responded to a call to be redeployed to support the Covid-19 studies.

BRC Managing Director Dr Nick McNally said: “We are incredibly grateful to the research staff who have responded to our call for support and who have come forward in great numbers to deliver this vital portfolio of studies. We also thank the managers who have freed up staff time to focus on this global effort.”