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Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ has joined the fight against Coronavirus by recruiting COVID-19 patients to participate in a ground-breaking new study of the disease performed by the partnership between the GenOMICC Study Consortium (led by the University of Edinburgh) and Genomics England.

The study will help us better understand the virus’ varied effects on people and support the search for treatments.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s GenOMICC project will work together with Genomics England and over 170 NHS hospitals. The study aims to sequence the genomes of 20,000 people who are severely ill with COVID-19.

This major new human whole genome sequencing study has been awarded £28 million of funding from Genomics England, UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The data collected by Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ and others will be compared to that from a further 15,000 COVID-19 patients who experienced only mild symptoms.

This cutting-edge research seeks to help explain why some patients with COVID-19 experience a mild infection, others require intensive care, and why for some it is sadly fatal. By discovering why some people are predisposed to developing life-threatening symptoms, the initiative will enable novel insights into the virus, as well as possible human factors that influence the effects of the disease, and whether a combination of both shape outcomes for NHS patients.

Dr David Fluck, Medical Director at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’, said: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this critical research. Our hospitals’ have a robust history when it comes to innovation and this study is a beacon of hope for the development process of appropriate and successful prevention and treatment therapies.”

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. The GenOMICC study has been running since 2016, and has been investigating genetic factors that impact how patients fare in response to a number of severe illnesses. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, and with the tremendous support of the UK critical care community, the study has expanded and accelerated enormously, and we are now recruiting in over 170 ICUs across the country. I am delighted to be working with Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ 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 Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals’ 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.”