Nine projects announced to support analytics research into COVID-19

Health Data Research UK and The Alan Turing Institute have announced nine new data projects, as part of a £2 million funding programme.

The programmes will use large-scale linked data to address priority research questions, hoped to help improve understanding of the pandemic and inform the continued policy response.

The researchers will explore a range or areas including; the differences in risk factors for severe disease between ethnic groups, what impact will disruption to healthcare services have on health outcomes, and if data science and machine learning can be used to predict which patients are at increased risk of hospitalisation following COVID-19 infection.

Each project will use advanced analytics, modelling, statistical and machine learning techniques, and will work in partnership with the network of Trusted Research Environments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to access large-scale, national and linked datasets in secure environments. This data includes viral variant and genomic sequencing data, outbreak-relevant data from clinical records, vaccination data including vaccine status and adverse events across the UK.

The nine projects and questions to be addressed include:

  • The impact of previous exposure to COVID-19 and the safety of COVID-19 vaccination for fertility and pregnancy outcomes
  • Over time, will changes in the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus result in a decrease in vaccine effectiveness in the Scottish population?
  • Do children and young people need extra follow up care after having SARS-CoV-2 infection?
  • Are people with chronic lung diseases at a higher risk of cardiovascular complications after having COVID-19 than people who don’t have lung diseases?
  • Using artificial intelligence as an aid to predict the risk of hospital readmission in patients with COVID-19
  • The impact of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy, children and young people, and vulnerable groups
  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of individuals with Long Term Conditions
  • Using medicines data to understand the effects of COVID–19 on clinical care
  • Improving methods in health technology to reduce inequalities, particularly ethnicity bias, using COVID-19 as an example.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, commented: “The ability to link large-scale health datasets across the four nations is crucial and has enabled vital insights into COVID-19 since the National Core Studies were established. This programme will take the use of this data to the next level as we continue to improve our understanding of this virus.”

Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Adviser, Northern Ireland, added: “It is important for Northern Ireland Health and Care data to be available for research via our Trusted Research Environment and open to discovery via the ‘Gateway’. It is essential that we can be part of studies that enable us to play our part in monitoring the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, inform our policies to control COVID-19, and allow us to explore the reasons behind variation in uptake of vaccination in Northern Ireland.”

The projects will start this month and are expected to complete by September 2022.

More information about each programme, please visit the HDR UK website.