COVID scientists issue urgent call for help

Blood donation centre to aid research into virus opening in Birmingham.

Birmingham is set to host a ‘pop up’ blood donation centre to help a ground-breaking COVID-19 research study – and scientists involved in the project are urgently calling for people in the area who caught the virus to volunteer to help.

From Saturday 8th May, eligible participants from the city and surrounding areas will be able to donate a blood sample at a temporary, COVID-secure centre at the Holiday Inn Express at 1 Snow Hill Plaza, St Chads Queensway. If they don’t wish to travel, the scheme also offers volunteers the option of making an appointment for a nurse to visit their home.

The unique GenOMICC COVID-19 Study analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced no symptoms while others became extremely ill. The study is already contributing to the fight again COVID, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.

However, for the study to continue to make progress the scientists urgently need to recruit more people from all backgrounds and are appealing to those who had the virus but didn’t require hospital treatment to sign up. Along with seeking the help of members of Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer.

“The virus’ effect has been more widely felt among ethnic and minority communities, so it’s important we help those who are making such an important contribution in the fight against COVID,” said Aman Ali from Muslim Engagement and Development. “We’re encouraging everyone to take a minute to see if they’re suitable to volunteer for the study. The results will be shared internationally and offer more protection to some of the most vulnerable groups of people around the world.”

The program was enthusiastically embraced in Scotland, Bradford, Preston, London and Leicester when similar sites were opened recently – and scientists are hoping for a similar response in Birmingham.

“Over the last twelve months, the city of Birmingham has suffered badly from COVID-19,” said James Scriven, Infectious Diseases Consultant at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Principal Investigator for the trial in Birmingham. “Sadly, Covid’s effect has disproportionately been felt by people of Asian and Black heritage and this study provides us with an opportunity to try to better understand why. We strongly encourage the city’s ethnic and minority communities to support this study to help us discover new ways of beating the virus.”

“We’re issuing an urgent appeal for more volunteers from all walks of life – and in particular for people from the region’s Asian and Black communities – to come forward and register as soon as possible,” explains Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s Chief Investigator.

“We need to find people who tested positive for COVID but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment. For comparison purposes, it’s important that these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”

“The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the COVID puzzle and protect vulnerable people,” said Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England. “Genetic research into COVID-19 is now playing an increasingly important role in our fight against the virus, enabling us to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.

“The findings from the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk, as well as helping to prioritise future vaccinations and lower the number of deaths.”

The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to COVID but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.