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Fast tracking COVID-19 drugs into large scale trials

The ACCORD platform accelerated the UK’s ability to test new COVID-19 treatments and spurred a collaborative alliance that created a combined early phase therapeutic pipeline.

Key facts

  • The ACCORD platform enabled clinical studies for new coronavirus studies to be set up in weeks rather than months

  • The early-stage clinical trials were fed into large-scale COVID-19 studies in the RECOVERY programme

  • Additional multi-trial platforms were brought together into a collaborative alliance that advanced new treatments for the UK


Rapidly assessing candidate drugs

As the first wave of the pandemic rolled over the NHS in spring 2020, the race to find effective therapies was on. RECOVERY was the UK’s key platform for large scale, phase 3 trials. However 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 effectiveness of the many 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.

Growing a therapeutic pipeline

Expert trial design input was provided by Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, with support from a commercial research delivery partner. With 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. All four were soon brought together in a 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 enrolment into the three treatment trials.

In addition to that direct contribution to tackling 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.

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