Vital medical research into possible treatments to help patients with Covid-19 is already showing encouraging results.
The respiratory clinical trials team is trialling two treatments to tackle the virus and the lung inflammation – which is the main cause of mortality in Covid-19 patients.
Professor Alyn Morice, head of respiratory medicine and the respiratory research group at Hull York Medical School and an honorary consultant physician at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, paid tribute to the rapid response of the respiratory clinical trials team.
He said: “This brilliant team has done the local setup and is running two international clinical trials in double-quick time for Covid-19.
“From patient identification and consultations to data collection and drug delivery, the team has worked every day over the holidays – I am immensely proud of the way they have stepped up.”
The two treatments are:
Nebulised interferon beta (Synairgen) which may reduce lung inflammation – the main cause of mortality in these patients.
Remdesivir (Gilead Sciences) – an antiviral drug that has previously been assessed as a treatment for Ebola.
The respiratory clinical trials unit, a collaboration between the Hull York Medical School, the University of Hull and Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, has been in operation for more than 20 years.
The team normally undertakes complex clinical trials in lung disease from its base in the Daisy Building at Castle Hill Hospital.
“We were already studying interferon beta from Synairgen for viral exacerbations of COPD (a type of obstructive lung disease characterised by long-term breathing problems) so it was relatively easy to randomise Covid-19 patients on Ward 1 at Hull Royal Infirmary to this drug or a placebo,” Professor Morice said.
“The remdesivir study is in collaboration with the infectious diseases team on ward 7 at Castle Hill Hospital. It inhibits viral replication and encouraging results were published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Top-line results were released last week from two remdesivir studies investigating the effectiveness of the drug in treating Covid-19.
The trial to which the Hull team has been recruiting patients is assessing the duration of treatment that is required.
Professor Morice thanked all university and hospital staff who have been involved in these trials for their dedication and commitment: clinical trials manager Caroline Wright, research technician Rachel Thompson, reader Simon Hart, senior clinical lecturer in respiratory medicine Michael Crooks and nursing staff Rachel Flocton, Jackie Mower, and Susannah Thackray-Nocera.
He also paid tribute to participation by patients – all of whom were identified for their suitability for clinical trials of this nature and consented to take part in the study.
Una Macleod, Dean of Hull York Medical School, said: “Hull York Medical School is committed to supporting our NHS during this time, as they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Colleagues across the school are focused on utilising their research expertise and skills where it matters most, to develop new interventions to help alleviate symptoms and support patients and their families.
“I am proud of the way in which colleagues have and continue to respond to support our communities during this time.”
The university and medical school are committed to providing expertise and resources to help in the UK’s fight against the pandemic.
While final-year student nurses and medics prepare to join the front line of the NHS, other students are undertaking volunteering roles to help the NHS build capacity during this time.
Colleagues across the university are using their equipment and skills to respond too. University departments such as engineering are working around the clock to maximise production of face shields for the NHS and other healthcare organisations.
Biomedical sciences has delivered sample processing technology to Castle Hill Hospital to help identify the virus and other faculties have donated supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment).
The university is also providing online training to former NHS healthcare professionals who will be rejoining the workforce at the peak of the pandemic.
Many of the university’s clinical academic colleagues are increasing their clinical hours to provide additional support where needed.