£4 million in funding announced to collect data on COVID-19 antibodies

UKRI will provide £4 million in funding to establish a data infrastructure for scientists in the UK to study antibodies from COVID-19 patient samples.

COVID-19 antibodies

A new £4 million research project has been announced to help scientists across the UK access the data they need for the development of potential therapies and treatment for COVID-19.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), through the UKRI-NIHR COVID-19 rapid response rolling call. Experts from the universities of Nottingham, Dundee and Edinburgh, along with Public Health England, will build the infrastructure for CO-CONNECT (COVID – Curated and Open aNalysis aNd rEsearCh platform). This multi-million, UK-wide initiative will support research into the COVID-19 antibody response by connecting COVID-19 data derived from patient blood samples.

The aim of CO-CONNECT is to build a data infrastructure to ensure researchers have the necessary information to answer fundamental questions around how immunity may help prevent future spread of the virus in schools and workplaces, how best to treat it in hospitals and generally how long immunity lasts. According to UKRI, understanding who is immune and to what level, is vital to protect vulnerable individuals, to safely scale back population-based interventions and for managing disease transmission.

CO-CONNECT will support access to information from 44 sources, standardising antibody data collection from across the UK and building a secure and trustworthy federated platform for researches to access. UKRI says that the data could potentially transform COVID-19 research, providing experts with key information about patient immunity to the virus and treatment outcomes that could ease development of treatments and therapies.

Philip Quinlan, Head of Digital Research Service at the University of Nottingham and Associate Director in Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), said: “We are really excited to be bringing together the best of the UK’s data assets into an accessible format. It will ensure leading researchers have access to the latest data and at the scale required to give definitive answers to some of the most significant questions that require an answer.”

David Seymour, Alliance Executive Director at HDR UK, said: “A fundamental aim of CO-CONNECT is to address the challenge of linkage of high-value data assets with other data sources, in order to provide new scientific insights. This is at the heart of our work at HDR UK and our role in the vital response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”