UK Launches Large COVID-19 Study up to 300,000 Participants: Part of National Program to Overcome COVID-19

UK Launches Large COVID-19 Study up to 300,000 Participants Part of National Program to Overcome COVID-19

A large British study of up to 300,000 participants conducted by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) will track the spread of COVID throughout the general population over the next twelve months. Designed to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the general population (and produce a representative sample), the study sponsors hope to generate initial findings by early May. By tracking the population, the sponsors hope to answer some fundamental questions around the current rate of infection as well as how many individuals will likely develop antibodies to the novel coronavirus.

5 Pillar Testing Strategy: Key to Transcending Pandemic

Before delving into the study a review of the DHSC’s Five (5) pillar COVID-19-based testing scheme is in order. Uncertainty represents a fundamental challenge with the current situation. For example, there is no clear way to determine who is infected and who is not; when is it safe to return to normal life? Good quality testing represents a path forward and England purports to be “a head of most European countries for testing at this point.” However, they acknowledge considerable challenges that must now be overcome. Their five-pillar strategy was established to overcome these challenges. The program includes 1) swab testing for those with medical need; 2) commercial swab testing for critical key workers in the NHS, social care and other sectors; 3) antibody testing to determine if people have immunity to coronavirus; 4) surveillance testing to learn about the disease and help develop new tests and treatments; and 5) diagnostics national effect to build mass-testing capacity at heretofore not possible scale.

The Study

Some 20,000 households across England are being contacted to take part in the first wave of a major new government study to track the COVID-19 coronavirus in the general population. In pursuing Pillar 4 (surveillance testing), the UK has already commenced a national surveillance program operated by Public Health England. Now other study partner/collaborators get involved including the world-leading scientific expertise of Professor Sarah Walker of University of Oxford coupled with the testing capabilities of IQVIA UK and the National Biosample Centre in Milton Keynes. These partners will support the government in its effort to collect patient samples from self-administered nose and throat swabs as well as participate in answering questions during home visits by trained IQVIA health workers.


This large-scale study includes swab tests that will help the sponsor assess whether participants have the virus or not.  Participants will take a test ever week for the first five weeks than monthly for 12 months. IQVIA supplies trained nurses tasked with collecting blood samples from around 1,000 households not currently infected with the virus.

Lead Research/Investigator

Professor Sarah Walker, Group Head/PI and Supervisor

Call to Action: The UK has developed a national strategy to get on top of COVID-19 moving forward—this large-scale test represents a key activity in the overall mission.  Other countries should study the approach.