More than 4,000 participants have taken part in nationally-prioritised research studies into COVID-19 in Oxfordshire this year, including more than 450 who participated in a study by vaccine development company Novavax at Oxford’s Warneford Hospital.

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.

Bill Wells, Head of Research and Development at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the Warneford Hospital, said:

“Developing promising vaccines to protect us from COVID-19 is the main hope we have for returning to a more normal life. We are extremely proud to have been able to contribute to this at the trust by supporting the Novavax trial.

“The vaccine team is made up of more than 100 staff including nurses, clinical research facilitators, and medics as well as administrative, pharmacy, finance, data management and research staff.

“It is thanks to their tireless dedication and hard work that we were able to set up the study in just four days and, in less than a month, have exceeded our recruitment target by more than 30%.”

While the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is already 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 are best for different groups of people and exactly how effective they are. People can register to be told about vaccine research studies seeking volunteers by visiting www.nhs.uk/researchcontact.

Other current and recent Urgent Public Health Studies include:

  • 1,500 Oxford volunteers recruited for a University of Oxford vaccine for COVID-19, which was found to be up to 90% effective following a global trial of 23,745 people.
  • Enrolling hospitalised patients, including 207 in Oxfordshire, on a trial testing how a range of different treatments impact survival rates. The RECOVERY trial this year reported that drugs lopinavir-ritonavir, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are not effective treatments but steroid dexamethasone can reduce deaths.
  • 98 volunteers recruited for the PRINCIPLE trial into existing treatments for older patients in the community with moderate symptoms of the disease or a positive test for COVID-19. Those with symptoms can register online at principletrial.org.
  • 99 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.

Prof Keith Channon, Director of Research and Development at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“The extraordinary progress in our understanding of COVID-19 – how it is transmitted, how it affects the body, how it can be treated, and prevented – is a reflection of the scale, scope and speed of the many research studies and trials that have taken place, many of them led from Oxford.

“But a special mention must also go to the patients who have taken part in this research and in so doing, driven forward our understanding of COVID-19, and in turn benefited thousands of other patients who have contracted the virus.”