Fast tracking COVID-19 drugs into large scale trials
As the first wave of the panic rolled over the NHS in spring 2020, the race to find effective therapies was on. Whilst RECOVERY was the key platform for large scale, phase 3, it was the ACCORD (ACcelerating COVID-19 dRug Development) collaborative, led by NIHR Southampton BRC respiratory research lead Professor Tom Wilkinson, that established a platform for rapidly assessing the initial safety and efficacy of the numerous experimental candidate drugs.
The ACCORD platform was forged and launched with incredible speed during April 2020, providing a structure to rapidly channel promising therapies towards RECOVERY. It centred on the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration, which combines the expertise of 10 NIHR BRCs nationwide, partnered with Public Health England, and pharmaceutical industry research teams.
With expert trial design input from Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, a commercial research delivery partner and four initial drugs on trial, ACCORD influenced and spurred development of the UK's COVID-19 therapy development strategy and activities. Three additional early phase multi-trial platforms were established following its launch, with all four subsequently brought together in an collaborative alliance, providing a combined early phase COVID-19 therapeutic pipeline for the UK.
Paused during the summer and autumn of 2020, the platform restarted trials in the 2020-21 winter season, enabling immediate enrollment into the three treatment trials.
In addition to that direct contribution to tacklling COVID-19, learning from the ACCORD experience and model will have implications both for rapid research under future health emergencies and for finding ever more efficient methods for drug development.