£4m data project to accelerate coronavirus research

A new multi-million pound research project will help scientists across the UK to access the data they need more easily to help develop potential therapies and treatment for coronavirus.

Experts from the Universities of Nottingham, Dundee and Edinburgh, along with Public Health England, will build the infrastructure for CO-CONNECT, a £4 million UK-wide initiative to support research into the coronavirus antibody response, by connecting data derived from patient blood samples.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), through the UKRI-NIHR COVID-19 Rapid Response Rolling Call.

The aim of CO-CONECT is to build the data infrastructure to ensure researchers have the necessary information to answer fundamental questions around how immunity may help prevent future spread of the virus spreads in schools and workplaces, how best to treat it in hospitals, and generally how long immunity lasts.

There is currently limited evidence that people who have recovered from the virus and have antibodies are protected from a second infection and if so, how long that lasts. 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.

This 18-month project aims to ensure the same standards are applied to all data to make the data comparable and usable in research. It will provide researchers with a streamlined, automated infrastructure to assist with work into developing potential therapies and treatments for the disease.

Philip Quinlan, head of Digital Research Service at the University of Nottingham, 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. We are really thankful to all the leading organisations that have come together to make this possible in the spirit of collaboration under the vision of ensuring data can help save lives.”