A British Call to Arms to Crack COVID-19

Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire

Much like the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win World War II by breaking the German Enigma Code, a swiftly-recruited, specialist-volunteer team from Barts Health, Queen Mary University of London and Genomics England is assembling at Charterhouse Square in Central London to decipher the highly-complex, virulent-virus COVID-19.

Charterhouse Square, Central London

Led by Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, a corps of medical codebreakers and outreach researchers—nurses, doctors, clinical scientists, specialists in infectious diseases, administrators and disaster relief specialists—has begun collecting blood, gathering demographic details, and offering clinical trials to patients. The data will be amassed to fuel code-breaking activities and inform which trials should proceed.

They’re striving to understand how COVID-19 invades the body and damages the host, which is complicated by variations and combinations in the virus and how it multiplies and transmits. In addition to collecting demographic, health history data, and more, researchers will delve into billions of data points derived from each patient’s blood samples (many from waste blood), looking for patterns in its propensity to contaminate and infect.

“As a world we have to be ready for the eventuality of secondary and tertiary waves of this pandemic. Britain is uniquely placed to take a lead in this research. As a people we have the character, altruism and inclination to pull together and this will serve us well as we attempt to collect ana analyse the data we need. Not only are we world leaders in genome research but our centralized National Health Service means that we in the UK can act not only to protect our own population but gain insights that benefit mankind as a whole.”
Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist, Genomics England

Sir Mark’s great grandparents were felled by the second or third wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic. It would indeed be serendipitous if his work helps defeat the COVID-19 killer lurking among us 100 years on.

Barts Health and Queen Mary launch Covid-19 research programme   (NHS Barts Health   April 17, 2020)
*Could Britain be the first to crack the Covid-19 code?    (The Telegraph   April 18, 2020)