By Matt Boazman, Chief Officer for Strategy and Innovation
International clinical trials day is celebrated every year on May 20th around the world to mark the day that James Lind began his famous trial into the deadly disease scurvy in 1747. The trial led to the discovery that citrus fruits high in vitamin C could prevent the disease – paving the way for the development of future trials and the emergence of vaccine developments to prevent diseases such as smallpox in the late 18th century. As well as celebrating the history of clinical trials the date also provides us with an opportunity to recognise and thank everyone that has delivered, supported and volunteered to take part in clinical trials during the last year across the world.
Throughout the last year research and clinical trials have been pushed to the forefront of public attention and the strength of the UK clinical trials infrastructure and the contribution that the NHS has made to delivering trials has been profound. Within the UK alone there have been over 90 urgent public health research studies which have been undertaken since the pandemic started.
Vaccines have been developed, drugs tested and treatments evaluated rapidly in the space of twelve months. Research at this scale and pace was unprecedented pre- pandemic and the whole research community has acted with flexibility, resilience and responded to the global challenge that we have collectively faced.
The UK led Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial and the Recovery study, which first discovered that the widely available drug Dexamethasone improved outcomes for patients receiving respiratory support, have both had a major global impact and have already led to an estimated 1 million lives being saved.
As an organisation BWC should be particularly proud of the contribution that we have made to support the national response to Covid with nearly 700 women, children and families having been recruited into COVID-19 research across our different sites during the last year.
We have responded rapidly to lead research into emerging areas like paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PIMS-TS) and been able to ensure that every single one of our patients with COVID-19 has been reviewed and given the opportunity to participate in a research study. Our hospitals have led the way in recruiting people to a range of studies including the ISARIC study which has collected data on patients cared for with COVID-19 across the organisation, we have been a member of the COPE-West Midlands study, led by our partners at the University of Birmingham, which has explored the risk factors of COVID-19 for healthcare workers and our Forward Thinking Birmingham mental health team has supported the important Stat-Stress study which has evaluated the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst all NHS hospital workers.
Away from COVID-19 we have also been able to support and maintain the delivery of trials across a range of our cancer, rare disease and maternity portfolios throughout the first national lockdown and we were subsequently able to safely re-open all of our remaining clinical trials during the summer of 2020. This has enabled over 1,800 women, children, young people and their families to take part in non-covid research throughout the pandemic thanks to the support of our research community across BWC. During the last year we have also been able to develop our plans for establishing advanced therapy trials at the Trust through the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), and have been incorporated as a partner within the Midlands and Wales Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre which supports the delivery of advanced therapy treatments to patients. We plan to commence our first GMO studies during the coming months paving the way for future innovation and treatment development.
This has only been possible thanks to the diverse group of individuals, roles and areas that both deliver and support research and I would like to thank all of you for the huge contribution that you make towards research every single day. Finally, I would like to both celebrate and thank all of our amazing women, children and families that Trust in us and choose to participate in research and clinical trials.