Consultant Anaesthetist At Forefront Of Ground-Breaking Coronavirus Genetics Study

More than 170 NHS hospitals are involved with a ground-breaking genetics study in the fight against Coronavirus. GenOMICC (Genetics Of Mortality In Critical Care) aims to sequence the genomes of 20,000 people severely ill with COVID-19. The study will help clinicians to gain a better understanding of people’s varying susceptibility to the disease, as well as its differing effects, and support the search for treatments. Staff from UHNM’s research team work on the frontline in Critical Care to recruit patients at the most serious stage of the disease.

Dr Nageswar Bandla, Consultant in Critical Care and Anaesthetics, and Principal Investigator for the GenOMICC  study at UHNM, said: “Susceptibility to COVID-19 is almost certainly, in part, genetic. GenOMICC can find the genes that cause susceptibility, which may help us to prioritise treatments to respond to the global crisis. Since 2016, the open, global GenOMICC collaboration has been recruiting patients with emerging infections, including COVID-19. Any COVID-19 patient requiring continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring or invasive mechanical ventilation are eligible for inclusion.

“Our research team work on the frontline, putting themselves  in harm’s way to sign patients up to the trial. They do this because they know that every piece of data we gather will help in our fight. We need to look at DNA from thousands of people to find the genes which cause susceptibility to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. This is urgent because if we can achieve it, we may be able to find treatments that will ultimately save lives.”

UHNM has so far recruited 29 patients to the study. The ground-breaking research may help explain why some patients with COVID-19 experience a mild infection, while others require intensive care and for some it is sadly fatal. By discovering why some are predisposed to developing life-threatening symptoms, the initiative will enable new insights into how the virus works, as well as possible human factors that influence the effects of the disease – and whether a combination of both shape outcomes for patients.

Professor Jeremy Kirk, Clinical Director of the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Clinical Research Network West Midlands said: “This is a fantastic recruitment effort by the team at UHNM.  We have supported them to get this study up and running in a very short time and hope that their contribution and that of the patients will soon produce new insights into COVID-19.”

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.  We are now recruiting in over 170 ICUs across the country and I am delighted to be working with UHNM 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 UHNM 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.”