Today, 26 June 2020, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator has announced a grant to Health Data Research UK to establish a new International Data Research Alliance and data analysis Workbench to support the rapid development of insights and treatments to combat the global effects of COVID-19.

Many organisations across the world are conducting studies into the disease and generating data that, when aggregated and reanalysed, can lead to powerful insights that help accelerate discovery of interventions. However, the data are often siloed meaning it is difficult for researchers to share and collaborate quickly to leverage the expertise and capabilities of 21st century research and analysis. The International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance and Workbench will provide an environment for focused collaborative research, matching high value data from many sources with cutting edge analysis to accelerate collaboration, discovery and development of insights and treatments to combat COVID-19, all with privacy and accessibility in mind.

The International COVID-19 Alliance is an independent consortium of leading life science, philanthropic and research organisations uniting to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Convened by Health Data Research UK, it will draw on expertise and work in partnership with the established UK Health Data Research Alliance, to align members to a common set of principles and standards for the ethical and responsible use of data for public benefit. The founding members of the International Alliance bring their collective data assets, expertise and funding, and include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, Wellcome, African Academy of Sciences, HDR Network Canada, Genomics England, and the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory.

Initially, the International COVID-19 Alliance has been set up to offer a co-ordinated global response to enable more insights to be derived from data related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the longer-term, it will enable scientific discovery to respond to future disease outbreaks. The International COVID-19 Alliance is seeking membership from organisations such as life science companies, academic institutions and clinical research organisations that control vital research, health and biomedical datasets. Whilst the International COVID-19 Alliance will not hold or control data itself, the aim is for its members’ datasets to be listed on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, enabling anyone around the world conducting vital research on disease outbreaks to discover and request access to these important datasets.

The Workbench will provide a set of tools that allows scientists to discover, access and analyse global multi-dimensional datasets and develop an efficient approach to working across boundaries, essential to achieving a rapid response to COVID-19 and future pandemics whilst respecting confidentiality and privacy. The Workbench, developed and managed by Aridhia, will connect to regional or national data infrastructures used by Alliance members, such as data from BREATHE, the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health in partnership with SAIL Databank. It will consolidate data and metadata from numerous federated repositories to allow analysts to work collectively on a target problem. Initial projects will focus on clinical trials of existing drugs repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19, and international studies to understand susceptibility and disease progression.

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) said: “International collaboration around safe and secure data sharing is crucial to improving therapeutic approaches as we advance our knowledge of COVID-19. UKRI is delighted to work with global partners to promote open research and data access with the potential to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.”

Graham Spittle, Chair of Health Data Research UK said: “The UK has established a robust infrastructure for uniting, improving, and using health data for research and innovation. We are excited to build on this experience of our community and partners to support this vital global effort against COVID-19 and future outbreaks,” said Graham Spittle, chair of Health Data Research UK.

“Recent controversies about the safety and effectiveness of new treatments in the treatment of COVID-19 highlight the need for the international community to work in partnership to analyze rapidly the results of multiple clinical trials at scale. The International Alliance aims to enable this in a trustworthy way. We look forward to working in partnership with, and learning from, colleagues internationally.”

The grant has been issued by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a large-scale initiative initiated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Mastercard with additional support from Minderoo Foundation, and other donors to speed the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19. Other funders to the International COVID-19 Alliance include Microsoft, through its AI for Health program.

To find out more, visit our webpage at


For further information and requests for interview, contact: Amanda White, Health Data Research UK, tel: 00 44 7732 689241

Notes to editors
About the International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance

The International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance draws on national and international best practice frameworks and recommendations to:

• Encourage the availability and use of structured and unstructured clinical, clinical trial, imaging, genomic, administrative, and other molecular data for research into COVID-19 that serves the public interest.

• Promote the protection of privacy and data security in line with the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Health Data Governance, HIPAA, GDPR and other relevant National guidelines from data controllers in Africa, Asia and South America

• Work collaboratively to increase harmonisation and reduce the complexity of data sharing arrangements to improve the efficiency of accessing data for trustworthy and ethical research

• Work to ensure: (i) respect for the data sharing and privacy preferences of participants; (ii) transparency of governance and operations;  iii) accountability to best practices in technology, ethics, and public outreach;  iv) inclusivity by partnering and building trust among stakeholders; v) collaboration to share data and information to advance human health;vi) innovation in order to develop an ecosystem that accelerates progress; vii) agility to ensure swift action to benefit those suffering with disease; and viii) independence through structures and governance.

Founder members include Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, Wellcome, African Academy of Sciences, HDR Network Canada, Genomics England, the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory, Novartis, Takeda, Generation Scotland, SAIL Databank, GenOMICC (Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care) Study, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC).

About COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator
The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is a collaborative effort to research, develop and bring effective treatments to market quickly and accessibly.

About Health Data Research UK
Health Data Research UK is the national institute for health data that includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives. It is a not-for-profit public benefit company funded by UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care in England and equivalent bodies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and leading medical research charities.