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The Covid-19 Research Group Faced the Pandemic Challenge During the First Wave - They Are Prepared for Action Again

In March 2020 the NHS Lothian Covid-19 Research Group was formed in order to respond to the pandemic. Miranda Odam, Covid-19 Clinical Research Coordinator, played a vital role in bringing together over 90 research staff to be seconded into the research group.

Staff came from across various departments and sites including infectious diseases, respiratory and emergency medicine and from the Wellcome Trust Research Facilities to join the research effort.

Miranda describes the Covid-19 Research Group as 

The most incredible collaboration of skilled clinicians who gave everything they could and worked unbelievably hard to ensure that the trials were set up and ready to perform.

Miranda OdamCovid-19 Clinical Research Coordinator
Covid 19 research group logo and Miranda Odem

Miranda took on the demanding task to identify staffing availability and to redeploy staff to different sites so that they could work to set up the various trials that were coming online at incredible speed and with a high degree of political pressure associated with them.

Miranda and colleagues succeeded in setting up the RECOVERY trial in less than a week, an unprecedented achievement that saw the team working under extreme pressure that demanded 100% effort, extended hours and a determination that everyone involved took inspiration from. The sheer speed of set up was also enabled by the pragmatic trail design and razor sharp focus of the R&D team who processed the necessary trial approvals day and night to ensure the trial could run. The outstanding team work across the research groups was instrumental in allowing the work to move at pace and this proved to be essential for successful recruitment of trial participants during the peak of the first wave.

Shortly after the RECOVERY trial was set up, more trials such as ISARIC and Breathspec quickly came online and required the teams' expertise to ensure that those trials would recruit successfully too. The Covid-19 Research Group efforts were soon rewarded in June as news that the RECOVERY trial's first results showed that dexamethasone improved Covid-19 patient outcomes. The team were hugely encouraged by these exciting results and saw the treatment being used directly within their own emergency departments and very quickly used across the world to improve Covid-19 patients' care.

The Oxford Vaccine Trial required the team to redouble their efforts to ensure that over 500 health worker participants across Lothian could receive the vaccine twice over a number of weeks. The team rose to the challenge yet again and were able to set up the trial in less than 6 weeks. Their work was crucial in enabling the UK trial to recruit the number of participants required to run a large scale trial and generate data that could provide a viable vaccine for Covid-19.

The level of support and camaraderie within the Covid-19 Research Group was the crucial element that allowed the team to keep on pushing forward even when the challenge seemed too great and fear and fatigue set in. Miranda used her previous experience working in Cholera and Ebola pandemics overseas to steady her and allow her to react confidently to the ever increasing workload and pressure, she reached out to her colleagues to offer them support and to make sure they felt protected and safe. Remarkably, few of the team were infected with Covid-19. Miranda believes that the careful procedures the team put in place within their work spaces, practices and personal hygiene were crucial in keeping the team healthy and productive.

Now as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic continues the Covid-19 Research Group are using their research preparedness to facilitate the set up and delivery of new trials. These trials include the SIREN Study, investigating whether having antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus provides health care staff with future protection against infection as well as two new arms of the RECOVERY trial, convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibodies.

NHS Lothian is the 7th top recruiting health board for the RECOVERY trial across the UK, an achievement the whole team are all enormously proud of. There are currently over 30 Covid-19 studies actively recruiting across NHS Lothian, including over 3,000 participants (some to more than 1 study/trial).

The team have shown that they can achieve extraordinary things, using their expertise, determination to succeed and heartfelt care for patients in the Lothians and across the entire world. The ACE community salute you!