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18 June 2020

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals features in top 3 for pioneering gene mapping coronavirus research

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been named as one of the country’s top recruiters in a groundbreaking study aiming to better understand the varied effects of COVID-19 on those who fall severely ill with the virus.

Between 23 April and 27 May, the Trust recruited 34 patients to the GenOMICC (Genetics of Susceptibility and Mortality in Critical Care) study, the third highest number of patients during that time period in the country.

The study aims to identify the specific genes that cause some people to become more susceptible to developing life-threatening symptoms from the coronavirus through whole genomic sequencing. This is the process of mapping a person’s whole genome, or their entire genetic blueprint, made up of billions of letters of DNA code, through ‘next generation’ laboratory sequencing machines.

Nationally 20,000 people currently or previously in an intensive care unit with coronavirus, as well as 15,000 individuals who have mild or moderate symptoms will take part in the study.

By comparing whole genome data of those who become severely ill with those that experience a much milder illness, the study seeks to gather vital insights as to why some people with COVID-19 experience a mild infection, others require intensive care and why for some it is sadly fatal. It is hoped that this will in turn help support the potential development of future treatments.

Over 200 intensive care units at multiple NHS Trusts across the UK including Sheffield Teaching Hospitals are taking part in the study, which is being led by the University of Edinburgh’s GenOMICC Consortium in partnership with Genomics England.

Professor Simon Heller, Director of Research and Development at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have been named as one of the top three recruiters to this important study where the genomes of thousands of patients with coronavirus will be sequenced to understand how a person’s genetic make-up could influence how they react to the virus.

“This top ranking is a testament to the fantastic efforts of everyone who has been involved in the set-up, management and delivery of this national study.

“The insights from this study could lead to better understanding of the virus and potential treatments, so we are delighted to have made such a key contribution to both the national and global effort to research ways in which we can limit its devastating effects.”

The Sheffield study was led by Professor Gary Mills, Professor of Critical Care Medicine at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.



Photo: Professor Simon Heller


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