A new International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance and Workbench will support the rapid development of therapies to combat the global effects of COVID-19. Established by Health Data Research (HDR) UK and partners, following funding announced by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and the Gates Foundation.
Accelerating collaboration, discovery and development of therapeutics to combat COVID-19
Many organisations across the world are conducting studies into COVID-19 and generating data that, when pooled together and reanalysed, can lead to powerful insights that help accelerate the discovery of interventions. However, the data are often siloed, making it difficult for those generating the data to collaborate quickly, and in ways that leverage the expertise and capabilities of 21st century research and analysis.
The International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance and Workbench will provide an environment for focused collaborative research, matching high value data from many sources with cutting edge analysis to accelerate collaboration, discovery and development of therapeutics to combat COVID-19, all with privacy and accessibility in mind.
SAIL Databank, working in partnership with BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health, ensures data security, anonymity and accessibility.
SAIL Databank is the Trusted Research Environment (TRE) for both BREATHE and for the country of Wales, UK, and is the focus for the accumulation of a wide range of COVID-19-related data. This includes managing access to de-identified data from the popular ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study app.
Swansea University’s Population Data Science team also bring their innovative SeRP (Secure e-Research Platform) technical platform to the Workbench, delivering a novel ‘adapter’ technology, lowering the technical bar for further data partners to join the Alliance.
Professor David Ford, Director of SAIL Databank and SeRP (Secure eResearch Platform), and Chief Data Officer at BREATHE, said,
“We are delighted that Swansea University’s Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP) is providing its Adapter technology to this important collaboration. Working with Aridhia, we will deliver the means by which independent, well governed, data repositories can participate in large scale federated research studies enabled by the Alliance, without having to move their data out from their local control.”
The Workbench: a platform to discover, access and analyse data.
The Workbench technology, delivered by Scottish firm, Aridhia, and supported by SeRP, will provide a set of tools that allows scientists to discover, access and analyse global multi-dimensional datasets whilst respecting confidentiality and privacy to develop an efficient approach to working across boundaries, essential to achieving a rapid response to COVID-19 and future epidemics.
The SeRP Adapter is a product which is formed of several technical components such as APIs, databases, and containerisation software, to enable federated analysis of data, where the analysis is sent to the data storage location and the result sent back to the user. This method of analysis enables data governance to be maintained in situations where physical data transfer is not permitted or possible, by allowing users to deploy analyses from a central user interface to data held in multiple physical locations.
Initial projects will focus on clinical trials of existing drugs repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19, and international studies to understand susceptibility and disease progression.
The International Data Research Alliance: a co-ordinated global response.
The International Alliance is an independent consortium of leading life science, philanthropic and research organisations uniting to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Convened by Health Data Research UK, it will draw on expertise and work in partnership with the established UK Health Data Research Alliance, to align members to a common set of principles and standards for the ethical and responsible use of data for public benefit. The founding members of the International Alliance bring their collective data assets, expertise and funding, and include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, Wellcome, African Academy of Sciences, HDR Network Canada, Genomics England, and the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory.
Primarily, the International Alliance is set up to offer a co-ordinated global response to enable more insights to be derived from data in related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the longer-term it will enable scientific discovery for future disease outbreaks.
Whilst it does not hold or control data itself, the International Alliance is seeking membership from organisations such as life science companies, academic institutions and clinical research organisations that control vital research, health and biomedical datasets. In time, the aim is for these datasets to be listed on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, enabling anyone around the world conducting vital research on disease outbreaks to discover and request access to these important datasets.
Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) said:
“International collaboration around safe and secure data sharing is crucial to improving therapeutic approaches as we advance our knowledge of COVID-19. UKRI is delighted to work with global partners to promote open research and data access with the potential to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.”
“The UK has established a robust infrastructure for uniting, improving, and using health data for research and innovation. We are excited to build on this experience of our community and partners to support this vital global effort against COVID-19 and future outbreaks,” said Graham Spittle, chair of Health Data Research UK. “Recent controversies about the safety and effectiveness of new treatments in the treatment of COVID-19 highlight the need for the international community to work in partnership to analyze rapidly the results of multiple clinical trials at scale. The International Alliance aims to enable this in a trustworthy way. We look forward to working in partnership with, and learning from, colleagues internationally.”
The grant has been issued by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a large-scale initiative led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Mastercard and Minderoo Foundation to speed the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19.
Read the HDR UK announcement www.hdruk.ac.uk/international-covid-19-data-alliance/
Read the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announcement