Usher Institute

Usher Institute COVID-19 roundup

In this brief overview of some highlighted activities we aim to give you a flavour of the range of work that is ongoing across the Institute contributing to the COVID-19 response across the UK and internationally.

Members of the Usher Institute have been very active contributing to the COVID-19 response across the UK and internationally – from data-driven / medical informatics initiatives to clinical trials and social science studies, across topics from pregnancy to palliative care.

Studies recruiting participants / clinical trials

Look out for more studies launching soon!

Data-Driven approaches

  • Professor Ewen Harrison, Dr Annemarie Docherty and others are part of the UK-wide/International ISARIC-4C Consortium – See their recent publication: Features of 20 133 UK patients in hospital with COVID-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol: prospective observational cohort study BMJ 2020; 369
  • BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health has a number of key projects to support the COVID-19 response, including managing access to data from the Kings College London/ZOE C-19 Symptom Study App Read more on the BREATHE website
  • Michael Poon and colleagues have developed an app to help monitor trends in COVID and non COVID-related mortality. Mortality stratified by underlying causes is publicly available in Scotland (via NRS). View the excess deaths tracking data visualisation
  • Professor Bruce Guthrie, Dr Honghan Wu, Dr Ting Shi, Dr Huayu Zhang have derived a prognostic model in two Wuhan Hospital Cohorts and validated the model in the King’s College Hospital Cohort. Currently they are updating the model using larger datasets. Read more on the preprint and website.

  • Professor Nick Mills and the DataLoch team have pivoted their focus to set up their ‘COVID-19 Collaborative’, providing a rich source of data on hospitalised COVID-19 patients in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland region
  • Dr Nazir Lone, Chair of the Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group, has led reports on COVID-19 admissions to Scottish Intensive Care Units. Read more on the Public Health Scotland website
  • Professor Aziz Sheikh is leading a study which is using patient data to track the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in near real time across Scotland. Read more on the EAVE-II study website
  • Dr Sarah Stock is leading a data linkage study of pregnancy outcomes after Sars-2-CoV infection, in collaboration with the EAVEII team - COVID-19 in Pregnancy in Scotland (COPS)
  • Professor Aziz Sheikh is working with Professor Amir Hussain from the Edinburgh Napier University's School of Computing to create an Artificial Intelligence-powered dashboard for tracking COVID-19-related public sentiment and opinion mining in social media platforms
  • Professor Harry Campbell and Dr Ruth McQuillan are leading the UNCOVER network – responding quickly to requests from policymakers for rapid evidence reviews. Read more on the UNCOVER website


  • Professor Raj Bhopal has been working with networks of researchers across the world particularly exploring effects of ethnicity/migration. His outputs have included: Governments and international institutions should urgently attend to the unjust disparities that COVID-19 is exposing and causing EClinicalMedicine (2020)
  • Margaret Douglas and colleagues argue, in a recent BMJ paper, that health inequalities are likely to widen without action to support those most vulnerable to the economic and other effects of social distancing measures: Mitigating the wider health effects of COVID-19 pandemic response BMJ 2020; 369
  • Professor Liz Grant co-directs the Global Compassion Initiative, who have suggested that acts of compassion, ingrained in lockdown, can help us after COVID-19 Read more on the University of Edinburgh's COVID-19 Expert Insights website. As a member of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Association and International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care Professor Liz Grant has also been developing guidelines and webinars on COVID-19 and palliative care

International response

  • Professor David Weller is leading a GCRF funded project developing the COVID-19 response for vulnerable communities in Tamil Nadu
  • Dr Jonine Figueroa is leading a GCRF funded project assessing the impact of measures put in place by the Kenyan government to curb COVID-19 spread on provision of health services
  • Professor Harish Nair is leading a GCRF funded project to study aspects of impact of COVID in whole population in a rural African setting to develop appropriate community-based interventions
  • Professor Linda Bauld is leading a GCRF funded study to generate evidence to support policy and practice to address tobacco use during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about the COVID-19 and Tobacco project 
  • Dr Jeni Harden is leading a project exploring a qualitative evaluation of telemedicine early medical abortion service implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: women’s and health professionals’ experiences
  • NIHR-funded Unit, TIBA is supporting COVID-19 activities across partner countries in Africa and the wider WHO Africa region. Our ongoing COVID-19 activities across the TIBA Partnership include: Supporting COVID-19 diagnosis through genome sequencing across TIBA partner countries; Capacity Building; Weekly update on COVID-19 situation report for the WHO Africa Region. Read more on the TIBA website
  • Four new projects have been funded under the RESPIRE collaboration following an emergency call to address the current COVID-19 outbreak. The research will address a range of topics, each focusing on priorities and gaps as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), with the goal of delivering early and valuable outcomes. Read more about the new projects on the RESPIRE website. A guide to support the re-opening of primacy care practices in Bangladesh has been published. Read more about the guide on the RESPIRE website
  • Professor Igor Rudan has been providing input to COVID-19 response across Eastern Europe. He was a keynote speaker at a meeting of the Ministers of Science, together with Professor Peter Piot. Read the EU News coverage

Advisory roles

  • Professors Andrew Morris, Aziz Sheikh, Mark Woolhouse and Devi Sridhar sit on the Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group
  • Professor Mark Woolhouse and team are working on mathematical modelling  in support of UK government advisory committee SPI-M
  • Professor Devi Sridhar chairs the Royal Society DELVE (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics) Committee and is working with Dr Tedros, Director General of WHO to support WHO response to COVID-19 on policy and governance issues
  • Dr Miguel Bernabeu is a member of the Royal Society Expert Panel - Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP)
  • Professor Harry Campbell is an Advisor to WHO Global Flu surveillance (serving as platform for COVID-19 surveillance)
  • As President Elect of the British Association of Stroke Physicians, Professor Gillian Mead wrote their statement on COVID-19
  • Professor Chris Weir is a member of NHRS Clinical Trials, Biological and Vaccines Expert Advisory Group, providing rapid response feedback on clinical trial authorisation applications for trials of vaccines or treatments for COVID-19
  • Professor John Norrie has been providing expert advice to the DHSC/UKRI COVID-19 Rapid Rolling Response panel, to the NIHR UPH COVID-19 panel, and more recently the NIHR UPH Mental Health COVID-19 panel.  

Clinical contributions

Many of our staff have also been juggling, or have returned to focus on, front-line clinical work. Notably, the Edinburgh Clincial Trials Unit clinical nurses have made a fantastic contribution of around 1000 hours in the COVID-19 hub at the Western General Hospital.

In addition

The Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society share regular updates on their website with key activities (COVID-19-related and otherwise!).

Read more in the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society News

Don't forget to check out the Usher Institute COVID-19 weekly webinars - where experts from across the world have been sharing their insights into the COVID-19 pandemic responses.

Read more, register for future events and review recordings of previous webinars

The University of Edinburgh COVID-19 Response site gives an overview of key COVID-19 activities across the University

Read more on the University of Edinburgh COVID-19 Response