SAIL Databank and BREATHE – the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health will join forces with researchers across the UK to support vital studies into coronavirus antibodies and immunity.
The £4m project will pool existing UK coronavirus antibody data in one secure source to accelerate the search for treatments and inform decisions around shielding and public health restrictions.
Researchers say the new initiative – called CO-CONNECT – will help them address fundamental questions about how immunity develops and how it could help prevent the virus spreading in schools and workplaces.
Widespread lockdowns were put in place in many countries in 2020 to restrict the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but with these restrictions came significant social and economic consequences.
As yet, it is not known how long immunity lasts after coronavirus infection or why some people are more at risk of severe disease.
Understanding more about immunity could be key to protecting vulnerable people, limiting the spread of disease and developing targeted public health measures as the pandemic continues.
The UK is already home to coronavirus antibody datasets based on blood samples taken from volunteers with COVID-19. However, there is little consistency in how these datasets are collected and stored, limiting their usefulness.
The new initiative – supported by HDR UK – will bring data together in a coherent and consistent way that will make it easier for scientists to quickly draw conclusions.
We are tremendously proud to be part of such an important new research initiative. SAIL Databank provides the Trusted Research Environment for the HDR UK BREATHE data hub. COIVID-19 is a respiratory disease and so this collaboration is of vital importance for responding to this coronavirus pandemic. In this new study, SAIL Databank will support CO-CONNECT researchers with COVID-19 antibody data from NHS Wales’ ‘pillar 3’ serology testing that shows if people have antibodies from having had COVID-19. This will enable BREATHE-facilitated cohort studies to address the big challenge of COVID-19 immunity.BREATHE’s Chief Data Officer and SAIL Databank Director, Professor David Ford
The project will also connect antibody data to existing healthcare records to allow research teams to find links between COVID-19 outcomes and other diseases, as well as characteristics such as age and sex.
These links are vital to inform decisions about who is most at risk of severe disease and how best to treat them.
The project brings together 29 different organisations and 44 data sources across the UK, including many facilitated by BREATHE, to create a ‘one-stop’ service for trustworthy COVID-19 antibody data.
The collaboration – led by the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, Nottingham and Public Health England – draws on expertise in securely managing anonymous data at huge scales.
Large datasets are transforming healthcare research and initiatives like CO-CONNECT will be key to accelerating research into COVID-19 antibodies. This UK-wide initiative brings together data custodians and experts with a wealth of experience in health data management who will collaborate to develop new insights into COVID-19 and speed up the search for treatments that are so badly needed.” Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of BREATHE and of the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh.Project co-lead Professor Aziz Sheikh, BREATHE Director