United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) has joined the fight against coronavirus by recruiting COVID-19 patients to participate in a ground-breaking new study.
The study, performed by the partnership between the GenOMICC Study Consortium (led by the University of Edinburgh) and Genomics England, and announced by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, will help us better understand the virus’ varied effects on people and support the search for treatments.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s GenOMICC project will work together with Genomics England and over 170 NHS hospitals including ULHT. It aims to sequence the genomes of 20,000 people who are severely ill with COVID-19. 2000 patients have been recruited to the GenOMICC study already.
The data collected by ULHT and others will be compared to that from a further 15,000 COVID-19 patients who experienced only mild symptoms. This data will be collected from participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project and UK Biobank.
This ground-breaking research may help explain why some patients with COVID-19 experience a mild infection, others require intensive care and why for some it is sadly fatal. By discovering why some people are predisposed to developing life-threatening symptoms, the initiative will enable novel insights into the virus, as well as possible human factors that influence the effects of the disease, and whether a combination of both shape outcomes for NHS patients.
ULHT has already recruited 14 patients to the GenOMICC study, and is aiming to recruit more.
Dr Chablani and Dr Barber are the Principal Investigators for the GenOMICC study at ULHT. Dr Chablani said: “Myself and Dr Barber are proud to be able to lead the study for Pilgrim Hospital, Boston and Lincoln County Hospital respectively. We are very grateful for the support we have received from our research team in this study and wish to thank every member of our team for their support. We are positive that the study will help unravel the mystery of genetic susceptibility to critical illness and help the scientific community to design new treatments.”
Dr Kenneth Baillie, Chief Investigator on the GenOMICC study, said: “Our genes play a role in determining who becomes desperately sick with infections like COVID-19. Understanding these genes will help us to choose treatments for clinical trials. The GenOMICC study has been running since 2016, and has been investigating genetic factors that impact how patients fare in response to a number of severe illnesses. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, and with the tremendous support of the UK critical care community, the study has expanded and accelerated enormously, and we are now recruiting in over 170 ICUs across the country. I am delighted to be working with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust to deliver this important work.”
Chris Wigley, CEO of Genomics England said: “NHS Trusts are absolutely vital to the national response to this terrible pandemic, so I am extremely glad that United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has joined our efforts to gain new insights into how this virus affects us. With their help, and with the support and understanding of thousands of patients and their families, we hope we will be able to build identify treatments which have the best chance of success in clinical trials, and build on the work of the 100,000 Genomes Project to develop strong infrastructure for the future.”
GenOMICC stands for Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care (https://genomicc.org) and began in 2016 as an open, global consortium of intensive care clinicians to understand genetic factors that influence outcomes in intensive care from diseases such as SARS, influenza and sepsis. When COVID-19 hit, GenOMICC was already recruiting and has obtained DNA samples from 600 cases already.
The study is led by Dr Kenneth Baillie at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh. Across the UK, the set-up of GenOMICC has been funded by a UK charity, Sepsis Research (FEAT), by the Intensive Care Society, and by the Wellcome Trust, UKRI (MRC) and the Chief Scientist Office.
Within the UK, GenOMICC is currently actively recruiting in over 160 intensive care units, covering more than three-quarters of the ICU capacity of the nation. Together with its international partners it aims to provide genetic evidence to help find new treatments for critically ill patients.
Genetics gives us an extremely powerful tool to help find new approaches to complex disease processes, but getting solid answers requires studying very large numbers of people. Ultimately, the global GenOMICC consortium aims to obtain 100,000 DNA samples from critically ill patients. This could have important implications for both the COVID-19 outbreak and for critical illness in general.
About Genomics England:
At Genomics England, our vision is to transform genomic healthcare by translating novel clinical insights to, drive better outcomes in the NHS and around the world. Our mission is to refine, scale and continually evolve our ability to enable genomic healthcare and research.
Genomics England was established in 2013 to deliver the 100,000 genomes project in partnership with the NHS. The whole genome sequencing of the “100,000 genomes” was completed in December 2018.