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The University of Southampton

Southampton to play leading role in fast-tracked COVID-19 treatment trial

Published: 29 April 2020

Drugs to keep the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients off ventilators and save lives will be sped into large scale trials through a national initiative that sees Southampton taking a leading role.

There is no proven effective treatment for COVID-19, a critical factor in the thousands of people hospitalised daily in the UK and pressures on NHS Intensive Care Units.

Without such treatments, the disease can lead to Acute Respiratory Syndrome - or complete lung failure - in severely affected patients leaving them on respirators and at high risk of death.

Now the ACCORD (ACcelerating COVID-19 dRug Development) collaborative of leading UK doctors and scientists, industry and government partners is accelerating the country’s drug development processes from years to months to get new COVID-19 treatments into national trials.

“There has been a tremendous effort to pull this together so rapidly. ACCORD is a national effort and will be key to developing effective new treatments which are needed so desperately,” Comments ACCORD clinical academic lead Professor Tom Wilkinson of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the University of Southampton.

Six potential drugs will initially enter the programme, with the first three of these beginning Phase 2 studies, which assess how well it works and its safety. Those showing promise will be fed into UK's large-scale COVID-19 studies such as the RECOVERY trial, currently the world’s largest randomised controlled clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment.

“The ACCORD platform will be able to rapidly test potential new treatments, advancing the most promising through Phase 2 clinical trials into the NHS. This unique national platform for developing new COVID-19 drug candidates will access the world-class expertise and resources of the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration and allied centres nationwide.” Explains Prof. Wilkinson.

The NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility (CRF) will form part of the single, UK-wide clinical trial platform provided by the clinical research company IQVIA, whilst the NIHR Southampton BRC leads expert contribution from the 10 NIHR BRCs that comprise the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration. The University of Southampton’s Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) contributes trial design and delivery expertise as part of the network of UK Clinical Research Collaboration Clinical Trials Units engaged in the initiative.

ACCORD is central to a co-ordinated national COVID-19 therapeutic development pathway put in place by the Government, overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and delivered by the UKRI, as part of the overall Therapeutics Taskforce.

“The UK is home to world-class scientists and researchers who are united in their aim to defeat coronavirus. Through ACCORD, we are bringing together the government, industry and research organisations to speed up the development of effective new coronavirus treatments, helping to save thousands of people’s lives and benefiting our NHS.” Comments Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The initiative has been made possible by partnership working between the Government Scientific Office, the NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres and Clinical Research Facilities, and expert centres in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, clinical research company IQVIA and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

“ACCORD will transform the way in which the UK’s research community finds treatments for global healthcare challenges such as COVID-19. ACCORD is an exemplary case of government, industry and research organisations working together with urgency, to the benefit of patients and the NHS. The NIHR’s experimental medicine infrastructure of people, facilities and technology is well-placed to fast-track research into COVID-19 treatments.” Comments Dr Jonathan Sheffield, NIHR Covid-19 Research Operations Director.


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