UKRI-funded research has already shaped our understanding of the outbreak and is playing a vital role in informing measures to tackle it. The UK has a world-renowned team of clinicians, public health experts and scientists working round the clock to keep the country safe. Our researchers are at the heart of the global and national networks and collaborations working on COVID-19. Together we are targeting research where it can make the most difference, ensuring that data are shared quickly and safely and that we can all address coronavirus and its widespread consequences.
The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) brings together major UK funders of global health research, and supports an Epidemics Preparedness and Response Group, which involves five UKRI councils (MRC, AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC and NERC), DHSC, the Department for International Development, Wellcome and the Academy of Medical Sciences. The Group is currently helping to coordinate UK research efforts against COVID-19, including through establishing an international database of COVID-19 research awards.
The MRC is also contributing to the coordination of international research efforts via two international coordinating bodies formed to improve the global response to epidemic threat: The WHO’s Global Coordinating Mechanism for Research and Development (GCM) and the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R).
Using health data in research
Health Data Research UK, the national institute for health data science supported by UKRI, has been actively championing the use of health data to address the COVID-19 challenge. Current work at HDR-UK includes research on risk factors, genomics, clinical trials, care pathways and surveillance while forging partnerships with government, NHS, industry and academia. These key activities are captured on the HDR UK COVID-19 Activities + Skills Matchmaking Tool, an online spreadsheet.
HDR-UK are also implementing a prioritisation system to ensure that resources are appropriately directed to where they are needed. This strategy will ensure that the best of the UK’s health data science capability will be leveraged to address the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerate access to UK-wide priority datasets, and coordinate and connect a national data science driven research effort across the UK. See how HDR-UK are coordinating their response to COVID-19/.
NIHR and UKRI launch call for research on COVID-19 and ethnicity
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre suggest that 34% of critically ill coronavirus patients are from BAME backgrounds. According to the 2011 Census, 14% of the population in England and Wales are from BAME backgrounds. There are concerns that healthcare and other key workers who belong to BAME groups may be particularly at risk.
The NIHR and UKRI are calling for research proposals to investigate emerging evidence of an association between ethnicity and COVID-19. We want to understand any potential differences in risks for ethnic groups, such as whether some groups are at a greater risk of adverse outcomes, and how we might then reduce their morbidity and mortality.
COVID-19’s impact on pregnancy
UKRI-funded researchers from Imperial College London are working to better understand how COVID-19 affects early pregnancy, fetal growth and virus transmission to the baby.