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NIHR's response to COVID-19

The NIHR has established a single, national prioritisation process for COVID-19 research to prevent duplication of effort and ensure that the resources and capacity of the health care system are not exceeded. We are maintaining a live list of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

The world faces an unprecedented challenge in our efforts to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and it is vital we harness our research capabilities to the fullest extent to limit the outbreak and protect life.

Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and NIHR Co-Lead

On behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR is funding and helping to deliver a range of “rapid response” research to better understand and tackle COVID-19, including research into vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests, and real-time collection of samples and data from people undergoing treatment in hospitals. We are doing this in close cooperation with Public Health England, UK Research & Innovation, the Health Research Authority and others.


New information for the public on COVID-19 research - published 3 April 2020

NIHR has updated its resource for patients and the public, the Be Part of Research website, with new information and links about COVID-19 and research underway into the condition. 

Prioritising funding and support for COVID-19 research across the UK - published 26 March 2020

Working with partners across the health and care system, NIHR is leading, enabling and delivering world-class COVID-19 research, a key element of the Government’s overall response to the pandemic. Given the extraordinary pressures currently being faced by the health and care system, we must also ensure that we are making best use of the limited resources and capacity available to support research.

We will do this by establishing and implementing a single, national process that will allow the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) / Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) for England to draw on expert advice to prioritise the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the challenges we face.

This process will cover funded studies, irrespective of whether they are funded by the public sector, industry or charities and also, in partnership with UKRI, studies that require funding. It aims to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the capacity of the health and care system to support research is not exceeded.

Details of the process and the new single point of entry for prioritising COVID-19 studies are now published.

With regard to HRA approvals, researchers should make an application through the national prioritisation process first and will be signposted for expedited regulatory approvals so that approval review can progress in parallel to the system of assessment leading to a view from CMO/DCMO on prioritisation.

All NHS Trusts, health and care providers and universities will need to prioritise support for studies which have been nationally prioritised. A live list of these studies is being collated.

Organisations may support COVID-19 research activity only when this does not impact on the system’s ability to recruit participants and/or provide the resources (including staff, samples and data) needed to support nationally prioritised research. Organisations will be expected to pause any local studies that impede their ability to contribute to national research efforts.


Pausing set-up of new or ongoing non COVID-19 studies - published 19 March 2020

Until further notice, the NIHR Clinical Research Network is pausing the site set up of any new or ongoing studies at NHS and social care sites that are not nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies. This will enable our research workforce to focus on delivering the nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies or enabling redeployment to frontline care where necessary. These studies are enabling the clinical and epidemiological evidence to be gathered to inform national policy and will enable new treatments, diagnostics and vaccines to be developed and tested. The complete focus of the NIHR Clinical Research Network will be on delivering these highest priority COVID-19 studies. 

During this time, the MHRA and HRA will continue to provide an approvals service for all studies, prioritised in accordance with the national situation, ensuring site set-up can restart promptly in due course.

What does 'pausing' the site set up of new or ongoing studies mean?

As of 23 March 2020, the NIHR Clinical Research Network will not be assessing any new commercial or non-commercial studies for CRN Support (with the exception of nationally sponsored COVID-19 studies received through the Department of Health and Social Care’s expedited Urgent Public Health processes). No new commercial feasibility service requests (early feedback, site identification, site intelligence and costing validation) or attribution support for non-commercial studies submitted on or after 23 March will be processed by CRN until further notice. Responses to any services currently in the system may also be impacted. Eligibility and feasibility services from CRN require input from clinical experts or local NHS organisations. In most cases, their priority is now to deliver the nationally sponsored COVID-19 studies, or return to frontline care as requested by their employing organisations. 


Impact of COVID-19 on research funded or supported by NIHR - published 16 March 2020

Given the scale of the COVID-19 challenge, we are encouraging clinical and academic health and care professionals funded by NIHR who are working on topics other than COVID-19 to prioritise frontline care where requested to do so by their employing organisations. This means that many research studies funded by NIHR or supported by NIHR (via the Clinical Research Network and other NIHR infrastructure) may need to be paused.

Read the full statement published by NIHR

Read the Q&A document

 Contact points for further information:

  • If you are in receipt of career development award funding including fellowships:
  • If you are in receipt of programme funding: either (i4i, PRP, PGfAR, PDG, RfPB and RIGHT) or (EME, HS&DR, HTA, PHR, ESP, CTU support funding, HSPR and global health units and groups)
  • If you have questions about the delivery of a clinical study:
  • If you are part of NIHR's broader research infrastructure or a school or unit:
  • If you are a patient or member of the public and have been recruited into a research study, please direct any questions to your study team

Latest news about COVID-19

UK’s top doctors urge recruitment of COVID-19 patients for vital scientific research

The country's five most senior doctors urge NHS Trusts to enrol patients into nationally prioritised COVID-19 trials.

COVID-19 vaccine and therapies research boosted by six new projects in £10.5 million rapid funding round

The NIHR and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have awarded £10.5 million of funding to six new research projects on developing and testing vaccines and therapies for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

NIHR supports COVID-19 trial looking to reduce symptoms and upregulate lung antiviral defences

A team of scientists at the University of Southampton have announced a trial of an inhaled drug that may help people reduce the symptoms of COVID-19.

DHSC issues guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on research funded or supported by NIHR

Statement on the impact of COVID-19 on NIHR funded and supported research and advice to the NIHR community helping to facilitate this research.

Latest documents about COVID-19

COVID-19 message for all NIHR Academy Members

Given the current situation with COVID-19 we wanted to provide you with some reassurance from the NIHR Academy as to how we will support you as NIHR Academy Members through the challenging circumstances we are likely to find ourselves in over the coming weeks and months.

Travel and Subsistence Funding to Support LMIC Engagement During the COVID-19 Outbreak - Applicant Guidance

This scheme provides travel and subsistence to support delivery of technical expertise in the global response to Covid-19.