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East Midlands asthma patients benefit from new data Hub
Researchers in Leicester and Nottingham are part of the UK’s first dedicated data hub for respiratory illnesses that will enable cutting-edge research for health discoveries and aim to give patients across the UK faster access to pioneering new treatments.
The BREATHE Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health is one of seven data hubs announced today (12 September) which will aim to improve the lives of people with debilitating conditions by linking up different types of health data to make it more easily accessible and user-friendly for research. Researchers from centres of excellence based at NUH and in Leicester will join with partners from across the UK, including the NHS, academia and charities to develop the new Hub.
Professor Ian Hall, COPD lead for the BREATHE Hub and Director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre said: “I am delighted that researchers in Leicester and Nottingham will be playing a major role in helping the national Hub deliver its objectives. This will build on a decade of close collaboration between the NIHR Nottingham and Leicester Biomedical Research Centres, and on the extensive links we have already put in place across the UK. Ultimately our aim is to accelerate access to relevant health data to facilitate research into lung diseases and to improve patient care”.
Professor Martin Tobin, Chief Scientific Officer for the Hub, and Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester said: “The award of this strategic funding enables us to work closely with patients and the public to improve research aimed at the prevention and treatment of lung diseases. It will enable more powerful studies, including understanding disease progression, enabling drug development and clinical trials that address some of the most pressing problems in healthcare.”
Patients, researchers and clinicians will work together to explore the safe and ethical use of health data for research into specific diseases including cancer, Crohn's disease and asthma. They will also enable access to data for trialling new treatments and support improvements in clinical care. Patients will be involved in decisions about how their data is used to ensure the benefits are returned to the NHS and the wider UK community, and existing rules for accessing data safely and securely will continue to apply.
The Health Data Research Hubs are part of a four-year £37million investment from the UK Government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) announced in November 2017 led by UK Research and Innovation, to create a UK-wide system for the safe and responsible use of health-related data on a large scale. The hubs will also stimulate further economic growth through greater research activity.
Professor Andrew Morris, a doctor with a special interest in diabetes and Director of Health Data Research UK, said:
"The UK is home to some of the world’s leading researchers and innovators who have historically struggled to access large scale data about people’s health. Creating these hubs and the wider secure infrastructure will, for the first time, give researchers the opportunity to use data at scale to research the genetic, lifestyle and social factors behind many familiar common diseases and identify revealing data trends which may help with finding cures or treatments.
With a clear focus on data security, safety and public involvement, this is an important and exciting next step in the UK’s health data proposition and builds on the fantastic strengths we have across our health service, universities and industry.”
Each hub was selected following an open competition by an independent panel involving patient and public representatives. They were assessed against criteria that included the potential for impact, the innovative uses of data, plans for involving patients and the public, and the value for public funding.
COVID-19 immunity research boosted by data platform
Members of BREATHE – the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health - have joined forces with researchers from across the UK to boost vital studies into coronavirus antibodies and immunity.
The £4m project will pool existing UK coronavirus antibody data in one secure source to accelerate the search for treatments and inform decisions around shielding and public health restrictions.
Researchers say the new initiative – called CO-CONNECT – will help them address fundamental questions about how immunity develops and how it could help prevent the virus spreading in schools and workplaces.
Widespread lockdowns were put in place in many countries in 2020 to restrict the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but with these restrictions came significant social and economic consequences.
As yet, it is not known how long immunity lasts after coronavirus infection or why some people are more at risk of severe disease.
Understanding more about immunity could be key to protecting vulnerable people, limiting the spread of disease and developing targeted public health measures as the pandemic continues.
The UK is already home to coronavirus antibody datasets based on blood samples taken from volunteers with Covid-19. However, there is little consistency in how these datasets are collected and stored, limiting their usefulness.
The new initiative – supported by HDR UK – will bring data together in a coherent and consistent way that will make it easier for scientists to quickly draw conclusions.
The project will also connect antibody data to existing healthcare records to allow research teams to find links between Covid-19 outcomes and other diseases, as well as characteristics such as age and sex.
These links are vital to inform decisions about who is most at risk of severe disease and how best to treat them.
The project brings together 29 different organisations and 44 data sources across the UK, including many facilitated by BREATHE, to create a ‘one-stop’ service for trustworthy Covid-19 antibody data.
The collaboration – led by the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, Nottingham and Public Health England – draws on expertise in securely managing anonymous data at huge scales.
The project is co-led by Professor Aziz Sheikh, BREATHE Director, and includes involvement from Professor David Ford, BREATHE Chief Data Officer, and Professor Ian Hall, BREATHE Programme Lead – Drug Discovery and Pharmacogenomics.
The project has also prioritised representation from patients and the public, with activity led by BREATHE lay representatives Antony Chuter and Jillian Beggs, alongside Professor Aziz Sheikh.
“This collaboration presents a huge opportunity to improve the lives of people across the UK and globally, by harnessing the power of our health data. Bringing the patient and public voice to the table will help us to deliver the best possible outcomes, and keep privacy and transparency at the top of the agenda.” Antony Chuter, BREATHE Lay Lead.
“Large datasets are transforming healthcare research and initiatives like CO-CONNECT will be key to accelerating research into Covid-19 antibodies. This UK-wide initiative brings together data custodians and experts with a wealth of experience in health data management who will collaborate to develop new insights into Covid-19 and speed up the search for treatments that are so badly needed.” Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of BREATHE and of the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh.
“We are really excited to be bringing together the best of the UK’s data assets into an accessible and harmonised dataset. It will ensure leading researchers have access to the latest data and at the scale required to give definitive answers to some of the most significant questions that require an answer. We are really thankful to all the leading organisations that have come together to make this possible in the spirit of collaboration under the vision of ensuring data can help save lives.” Philip Quinlan, Head of Digital Research Service at the University of Nottingham.