When the pandemic hit UK shores, research teams at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and Royal Papworth Hospital (RPH) NHS Foundation Trusts joined colleagues across the country to tackle coronavirus.
Finding a vaccine for COVID-19 quickly became a prime focus for many scientists the world over, with one early candidate originating in Oxford, funded and supported by the NIHR. As with any treatment or vaccine, the only way to find the solid evidence base to ensure it is effective is to find volunteers to help test it. In England, the unique NIHR network of staff embedded in the NHS were able to hit the ground running when the call went out, to begin recruiting volunteers for the Oxford vaccine study.
In Cambridge, conversations began between the three key NHS trusts and NIHR Cambridge Clinical Research Facility to determine the most efficient and effective way their teams could deliver this trial. The logistics were challenging so the decision was made to pool the teams’ resources and work as a collaborative to deliver all aspects of the study. Not only was this the first time this had happened for the teams involved - forming a milestone partnership, it also resulted in CPFT being the only integrated mental health and community care trust to deliver the trial, facilitated by the specialist Windsor Research Unit team.
Once the teams were ready to go, staff from all three trusts quickly began signing up, becoming some of the first to take part in the trial, with all dosing taking place at CUH. Regular teleconference meetings were held between the sites to co-ordinate delivery as efficiently as possible, with follow ups divided between all three sites.
Dr Ben Underwood, Clinical Director of the Windsor Research Unit and Principal Investigator for CPFT said: “The team are delighted to see such a significant effect in protecting people from Covid-19, which raises the prospect of recovery and restoration for other areas of the health service and wider society – the greatest reward for a tremendous partnership effort. Huge thanks to all the staff and volunteers making this research possible, and helping to find a safe, effective vaccine.”
Dr Mark Toshner, Principal Investigator for the Oxford vaccine trial at CUH, said:
“It was a privilege to be part of a team that came together from all corners of the biomedical campus. This was a shining example of what collaboration can achieve and we thank all the research staff and volunteers in the trials who helped with this work.
It is astonishing to think it is already saving lives.”
Abraham Koveliljacob, an Integrated Care Worker at CPFT, was so grateful to have the opportunity to be one of the NHS staff members invited to take part in the trial.
He said: “I am proud to have been part of the resolution of a world pandemic. It makes me grateful and also gives me the feeling that doing a little thing can make a big impact on the world. If you want to be a part of any research you should go for it as you only live once!”
This partnership has now set a standard for cross-working to deliver these kinds of trials.
The Cambridgeshire collaborative has now taken on a further vaccine study in recruiting to the Janssen vaccine trial and is ready to open further research to make sure the most effective vaccines can be found for as many people as possible.
To find out about getting involved in COVID-19 vaccine studies happening in the UK visit bepartofresearch.uk.