9 May 2022
COVID-19 has brought healthcare into sharp focus and has propelled the advancement of research projects and clinical trials to address and tackle the wider impacts of the pandemic. Since the initial outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, UKRI has been funding solutions for society, from life-saving steroids to virtual breastfeeding support.
Now, over two years on from the UK’s first national lockdown, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has produced a Research for Recovery infographic, illustrating how their funded research projects continue to drive recovery in many different aspects of our lives.
Some key statistics highlighted by the infographic include;
£554 million has been invested in new projects since the start of the pandemic
50kg of medical supplies were delivered from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly by drone
100,000s of lives were saved worldwide with readily available steroid dexamethasone thanks to the RECOVERY trial – the fastest-recruiting treatment trial in medical history
Revolutionising the delivery of urgent medical supplies
During the pandemic, when medical supplies, including COVID-19 testing kits, had to reach isolated communities and back as quickly as possible, travel took on a new urgency. Vaccine and medical deliveries are time-sensitive, and relying on road and sea is subject to bad weather or traffic.
Rapidly mobilised and energy-efficient, drones have the potential to revolutionise the delivery of urgent goods and services for remote locations. Thanks to innovative thinking, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can deliver medical supplies safely and quickly, reducing transmission risk. Developed in Southampton and Cornwall, the fixed-wing drone carried PPE and testing kits to the Isles of Scilly and a 50kg load of medical supplies was successfully delivered from Land’s End to St Mary’s hospital in the Isle of Wight in under 30 minutes.
Drone technology is a powerful example of the value that drones could bring to communities and wider society, not just for remote locations but for the country as a whole.
Discovering life-saving treatments
From existing antivirals to new antibody therapies – researchers have been working tirelessly to find the best drugs to treat COVID-19 – however, with a lack of tested drugs available, research is essential for the battle against the virus.
A ground-breaking clinical trial has transformed the treatment of COVID-19. The RECOVERY trial was the world’s largest, fastest-recruiting treatment trial in medical history, with more than 40,000 participants across 185 trial sites in the UK.
The trial was one of a round of projects to receive funding as part of the rapid research response (National Archives) funded by UKRI and the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research.
Dexamethasone reduces deaths by up to one third
The RECOVERY trial investigated 10 potential treatments, ruled out four including Hydroxychloroquine, and discovered a life-saving treatment for COVID-19, Dexamethasone, within just three months. 
The inexpensive, readily available steroid Dexamethasone saves the lives of seriously ill patients suffering from severe respiratory complications, with an estimated 22,000 lives saved in the UK and one million lives worldwide and reducing COVID-19 patient deaths by a third.
The first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is a type of steroid used to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including sore throats. Overall, Dexamethasone reduced mortality rate by 17%, with a highly significant trend showing the greatest benefit among those patients requiring ventilation.
RECOVERY is now testing other treatments internationally to continue to help clinicians around the world provide the best treatments for hospitalised patients.
Tracking and tracing through the UK sewage system: Unlocking the secrets of sewage
COVID-19 can spread rapidly through clusters of individuals, creating local outbreaks and putting immense pressure on healthcare systems. With symptoms potentially taking up to two weeks to emerge and, because around 20% of the population or more show no symptoms at all when they are infected, it becomes almost impossible to detect where these local outbreaks are likely to occur.
Innovative tracking and tracing through the UK sewage system has been developed to detect levels of coronavirus in sewage to aid Government efforts to control the spread of the virus and the development of future COVID-19 variants in wastewater samples. Wastewater analysis can provide an early warning system for new cases in specific geographical areas. These can then be followed up with additional community testing and messaging to help contain outbreaks. By October 2020, testing was taking place at more than 90 UK wastewater treatment sites.
The development of this wastewater testing infrastructure could, in the future, be expanded to monitor other infectious diseases, including flu, as well as provide information to hospitals.
Med-Tech Innovation Expo is the UK & Ireland’s leading event for medical device design and manufacturing technology. Taking place on 8-9 June 2022, be inspired by thought leaders and discover new solutions, materials, machines, applications and suppliers in the medtech industry.
Register for Med-Tech Innovation Expo at www.med-techexpo.com. 
9 May 2022
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