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Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK

Sims, Jessica M; Lawrence, Emma; Glazer, Katy; Gander, Amir; Fuller, Barry; Davidson, Brian R; Garibaldi, Jonathan; (2022) Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK. BMJ Open , 12 (4) , Article e047309. 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047309. Green open access

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Annotated clinical samples taken from patients are a foundation of translational medical research and give mechanistic insight into drug trials. Prior research by the Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre (TDCC) indicated that researchers, particularly those in industry, face many barriers in accessing patient samples. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic to the UK produced an immediate and extreme shockwave, which impacted on the ability to undertake all crucial translational research. As a national coordination centre, the TDCC is tasked with improving efficiency in the biobanking sector. Thus, we took responsibility to identify and coordinate UK tissue sample collection organisations (biobanks) able to collect COVID-19-related samples for researchers between March and September 2020. FINDINGS: Almost a third of UK biobanks were closed during the first wave of the UK COVID-19 pandemic. Of the remainder, 43% had limited capabilities while 26% maintained normal activity. Of the nationally prioritised COVID-19 interventional studies, just three of the five that responded to questioning were collecting human samples. Of the 41 requests for COVID-19 samples received by the TDCC, only four could be fulfilled due to a lack of UK coordinated strategy. Meanwhile, in the background there are numerous reports that sample collections in the UK remain largely underutilised. CONCLUSION: The response to a pandemic demands high level co-ordinated research responses to reduce mortality. Our study highlights the lack of efficiency and coordination between human sample collections and clinical trials across the UK. UK sample access is not working for researchers, clinicians or patients. A radical change is required in the strategy for sample collection and distribution to maximise this valuable resource of human-donated samples.

Type: Article
Title: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047309
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047309
Language: English
Additional information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: health informatics, COVID-19, ethics (see Medical Ethics), health policy
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci > Department of Surgical Biotechnology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10147875
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