In July’s round, the Early Career Committee reviewed and ranked dozens of COVID-19 related open access articles. All articles were assessed based on the core pillars of the Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) ethos: research quality, team science, scale, open science, patient and public involvement, impact and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Two outstanding piece of work were selected as joint winners in this month’s review: a meta-analysis conducted by the WHO REACT working group on “Association Between Administration of IL-6 Antagonists and Mortality Among Patients Hospitalized for COVID-19” and “SCORE2 risk prediction algorithms: new models to estimate 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease in Europe” by SCORE2 working group and ESC Cardiovascular risk collaboration. Both studies had HDR UK associate collaborators. The vast collaborative network of contributors established in both studies was highly regarded by ECR Committee.

The first study conducted by WHO REACT working group, is a prospective meta-analysis of 27 studies looking at total number of deaths occurred following admission of patients with COVID-19 to the hospital. These patients often have an increased level of inflammation in their body and raised level of a key biomarker called Interleukin 6 (IL-6). There are some types of immunosuppressive drugs (such as tocilizumab and sarilumab) that target the IL6; however various research studies reported differently on benefit, no-benefit and potential harm in using these drugs for treating COVID-19 patients. REACT working group brought together data of 10,930 patient from 27 randomized clinical trials and showed that those who received IL-6 had lower rate of mortality 28 days after randomization. The ECR committee, scored this study highly across various domains, with highest score achieved in team science and scale and research quality.

The SCORE2 study was set out to develop, validate, and illustrate an updated prediction model estimate 10-year fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in individuals without previous CVD or diabetes aged 40–69 years in Europe. The study employed data from 45 cohorts across 13 countries. The model utilised sex, age, smoking status, systolic blood pressure, and total- and HDL-cholesterol. The model was then externally validated from an additional 25 cohorts in 15 European countries. This has resulted in a model that can be employed to assist the early identification of first-onset CVD in European populations. The paper scored very well for team science, due to the involvement from multiple universities across different countries. Additionally, the study scored well on the scale of the data utilised in the study and the open access availability of the paper.

HDR UK’s Early Career Committee would like to congratulate and comment both teams for their contribution to HDR UK’s vision of improving public health by uniting the UK’s health data and establishing valuable collaborative networks that brings together the data science for patients benefit.

Read the WHO REACT paper

Read the SCORE2 paper