Health Data Research UK is working in partnership with the NHS, charities, policy makers and industry colleagues across the UK to help mobilise talent and harness health data at scale for research and innovation that will help address the COVID-19 challenge.

HDR UK’s priorities in this area are to:

  1. Co-ordinate and connect national data science driven research efforts related to COVID-19
  2. Accelerate access to UK-wide priority data relevant to COVID-19 for research
  3. Leverage the best of the UK’s health data science capability to address the wider impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting high risk and vulnerable groups that will be hardest hit

You can find out more about the HDR UK strategy to address the crisis on our COVID-19 page.

We are supporting the HDR UK community and partners to address COVID-19 into eight main focus areas:

  1. Genomics – the study of genes, whole genomes and their functions
  2. Epidemiology – study of incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health
  3. Clinical management – examination of care practices and pathways to provide better care to patient
  4. Therapeutics and trials – treatments and the testing and verification
  5. Ethics and public engagement – involving patient and public representatives in our COVID-19 work
  6. Social sciences – incorporating a broad range of social sciences disciplines and their relationship to addressing COVID-19 outbreak
  7. Data linkage and secure analysis – making relevant datasets available to researchers in a safe and secure fashion
  8. Data standards and phenotyping – recording information consistently and accurately about COVID-19 e.g. in patient records




There are currently are a number of activities already underway that the HDR UK community is supporting that are aligned with COVID-19. These include:

King’s College London – HDR UK London
Using COVID-19 patient medical notes to improve understanding of disease

The team are developing ways in which we can search the medical notes of all known COVID-19 patients rapidly, to glean information and insights that may help to understand more about this disease. They use a technique called Natural Language Processing. Developing these methods is part of a pre-existing national HDR UK project, however the team have switched their disease focus and are now applying the techniques they are developing to COVID-19.

Leads: Professor Richard Dobson, Dr Angus Roberts

HDR UK Fellow/ London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) – HDR UK London
Statistical modelling of COVID-19

Dr Rosalind Eggo is a Health Data Research UK Fellow who develops statistical models to help understand how viruses that affect our breathing spread throughout communities. When COVID-19 emerged, Roz shifted her focus to study COVID-19. She and her team are currently using latest data from China and beyond to measure how the virus can exacerbate other pre-existing conditions using viral transmission models.

Lead: Dr Rosalind Eggo, HDR UK Fellow

HDR UK Fellow/ Sanger Institute – HDR UK Cambridge
Genomic sequencing of COVID-19

Dr Ewan Harrison is a Health Data Research UK Fellow using genomic sequencing to study microbes that live in our noses and how these are transmitted between people. The approaches he and his team have developed are now being applied to COVID-19, as the virus can also live in the nose. This will help to improve understanding about the spread of the virus.

Lead: Dr Ewan Harrison

Discover-NOW – The Health Data Research Hub for Real World Evidence
Enhancing access to and using near real time patient data

The team are accelerating availability of clinical information on patient who have tested positive for COVID-19 in North West London, and developing a dashboard to show a near real-time picture of the spread of the disease. This could help to flag hot spots where control measures should be increased. Amongst other activities, they are also using this data to identify patients at risk of complication, and exploring data linkage with NHS 111.

Lead: Dr Axel Heitmueller

University of Oxford  in partnership with the NHS DigiTrials – The Health Data Research Hub for Clinical Trials
Rapid clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments

A national team is developing ways to recruit large numbers of the right patients to clinical trials and conduct long-term follow-up with efficiently, and are now turning their attention to recruiting for COVID-19 trials.

There are three existing treatments that have potential to also effectively treat those with the COVID-19. The team developed this trial in record time (10 days) and is due to kick-off at the end of March 2020. More information here.

Lead: Professor Martin Landray

BREATHE – The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health and University of Edinburgh – HDR UK Scotland
Learning from the swine flu pandemic

During the dubbed H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic in 2009, an approach was developed in Scotland that was successful in predicting the patterns, causes and risk factors associated with that virus. The approach also accurately and rapidly measured the effectiveness of medicines and behaviour changes. These were instrumental in bringing the 2009 swine flu under control. The team have received funding to enhance this approach for use in the current pandemic.

Lead: Professor Aziz Sheikh


For further information

We will continue provide further updates on progress of these projects and others on a weekly basis. If you would like to find out more about HDR UK’s strategy for work on COVID-19, or if you are a researcher who would like to get involved, please visit our COVID-19 page.