How the Pandemic affected us:
Our Research and Development department, together with our NIHR BioResource and BRC resources and infrastructure, were fundamental in our Trust’s COVID-19 clinical and research response. Our Trust has been delivering numerous Urgent Public Health and local COVID-19 studies for both therapeutic and vaccine purposes and required the redeployment, secondment and support of tens of staff from the R&D and clinical workforce.
With the pausing of the National BioResource activity, our Guy’s and St Thomas’ BioResource Coordinator, Magdalena Martinez Queipo, was redeployed to the front line in the first wave of the pandemic to support the care of patients with COVID-19 in Guy’s and St Thomas’ Intensive Care Unit. As the first wave subsided Magdalena was then further redeployed to the COVID-19 vaccine team which had been established to deliver the Oxford AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax vaccine clinical trials. While there she supported preparations for an MHRA GCP inspection on the Oxford AstraZeneca study.
After the restart of National BioResource activities, efforts were immediately put to the continued activities of ongoing rare disease studies and the commencing of new studies which Guy’s and St Thomas’ were leading on. Despite the many restrictions that were in place, close to 100 participants were recruited to the Rare Disease cohorts. This included 11 recruits to three newly opened rare disease cohorts namely Bleeding and Platelet Disorders, Severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Intrahepatic Cholestasis in Pregnancy.
The NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BioResource also supported the initiation of a volunteer recall study for the identification of epitopes and antibodies during COVID-19 infection (the COVID-IDEA study). To date over 50 patients have been recalled to the study. This study further links in with our NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC’s Infection and Immunity theme.
Looking to the future:
Our BioResource team are now well back in their substantive positions and looking forward to recruiting participants to new studies in set up including Cystenosis and Hydroxychloriquine retinopathy. We are also rapidly preparing to open COVID-CNS, a study investigating neurological or neuropsychiatric complications in some COVID-19 patients.
With the way we communicate and recruit participants substantially altered over the last 18 months, the team are now looking to maximise the heightened understanding and appreciation of research by the public. We will be identifying new and optimised strategies for recruitment including hybrid models of participant recruitment including remote recruitment with sample collection via GPs, working with charities and advocacy groups for specific rare diseases and online events.
Magdalena Martinez Queipo said: “We would like to express our sincere thanks to all participants who have donated to our BioResource to date.
"For us as a team the pandemic has tested our internal processes for team training, patient recruitment and new study set up multiple times due to pausing and re-staring recruitment in line with NIHR guidance.
"With changes within our staff team and multiple redeployments to support the COVID-19 response, we have shown that we have a good and resilient structure in place that adapts well to change”.