Partners join forces to establish an International Alliance to enable secure and collaborative COVID-19 data research at scale

| 26/06/2020

“International collaboration around safe and secure data sharing is crucial to improving therapeutic approaches as we advance our knowledge of COVID-19. UKRI is delighted to work with global partners to promote open research and data access with the potential to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.”

Sir Mark Walport

Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

 

“The UK has established a robust infrastructure for uniting, improving, and using health data for research and innovation. We are excited to build on this experience of our community and partners to support this vital global effort against COVID-19 and future outbreaks,”

Graham Spittle

Chair of Health Data Research UK

On the 26 June 2020, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator  announced a grant to Health Data Research UK to establish a new International Data Research Alliance and data analysis Workbench to support the rapid development of insights and treatments to combat the global effects of COVID-19.

Many organisations across the world are conducting studies into the disease and generating data that, when aggregated and reanalysed, can lead to powerful insights that help accelerate discovery of interventions. However, the data are often siloed meaning it is difficult for researchers to share and collaborate quickly to leverage the expertise and capabilities of 21st century research and analysis. The International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance and Workbench will provide an environment for focused collaborative research, matching high value data from many sources with cutting edge analysis to accelerate collaboration, discovery and development of insights and treatments to combat COVID-19, all with privacy and accessibility in mind.

The International COVID-19 Alliance is an independent consortium of leading life science, philanthropic and research organisations uniting to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Convened by Health Data Research UK, it will draw on expertise and work in partnership with the established UK Health Data Research Alliance, to align members to a common set of principles and standards for the ethical and responsible use of data for public benefit. The founding members of the International Alliance bring their collective data assets, expertise and funding, and include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, Wellcome, African Academy of Sciences, HDR Network Canada, Genomics England, and the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory.

Initially, the International COVID-19 Alliance has been set up to offer a co-ordinated global response to enable more insights to be derived from data related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the longer-term, it will enable scientific discovery to respond to future disease outbreaks. The International COVID-19 Alliance is seeking membership from organisations such as life science companies, academic institutions and clinical research organisations that control vital research, health and biomedical datasets. Whilst the International COVID-19 Alliance will not hold or control data itself, the aim is for its members’ datasets to be listed on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, enabling anyone around the world conducting vital research on disease outbreaks to discover and request access to these important datasets.

The Workbench will provide a set of tools that allows scientists to discover, access and analyse global multi-dimensional datasets and develop an efficient approach to working across boundaries, essential to achieving a rapid response to COVID-19 and future pandemics whilst respecting confidentiality and privacy. The Workbench, developed and managed by Aridhia, will connect to regional or national data infrastructures used by Alliance members, such as data from BREATHE, the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health in partnership with SAIL Databank. It will consolidate data and metadata from numerous federated repositories to allow analysts to work collectively on a target problem. Initial projects will focus on clinical trials of existing drugs repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19, and international studies to understand susceptibility and disease progression.

“Recent controversies about the safety and effectiveness of new treatments in the treatment of COVID-19 highlight the need for the international community to work in partnership to analyze rapidly the results of multiple clinical trials at scale. The International Alliance aims to enable this in a trustworthy way. We look forward to working in partnership with, and learning from, colleagues internationally.”

Graham Spittle

Chair of Health Data Research UK

The grant has been issued by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a large-scale initiative initiated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Mastercard with additional support from Minderoo Foundation, and other donors to speed the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19. Other funders to the International COVID-19 Alliance include Microsoft, through its AI for Health program.

Webinar: Introducing the International COVID-19 Data Alliance

Many organisations across the world are conducting studies into COVID-19 and generating data that, when aggregated and re-analysed, can lead to powerful insights that help accelerate discovery of interventions.  However, the datasets are often siloed, making it difficult for researchers to share and collaborate quickly to leverage the expertise and capabilities of 21st century research and analysis.

The International COVID-19 Data Alliance is being established to help respond to this challenge. It will provide an environment for focused collaborative research, matching high value data from many sources with cutting edge analysis to accelerate collaboration, discovery and development of insights and treatments to combat COVID-19, all with privacy and accessibility in mind.  Over the longer-term, it will enable scientific discovery to respond to future disease outbreaks.

Please join us on Wednesday 8th July from 3:30 – 5:00pm BST to learn more about this initiative and ways in which you can become involved. We are keen to make this session as informative as possible.  You can submit a question via the registration form or email us on COVID@hdruk.ac.uk.

We are conscious that there is a huge amount of activity in this arena and are therefore keen to connect, collaborate with and involve existing initiatives.  Therefore, please do share this invitation with colleagues who you think may also be interested in learning more.

Launch event report

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