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First patient recruited to HSC R&D Division funded COVID research

HSC R&D Division is funding a UK-wide clinical trial, offering an innovative stem-cell treatment for COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure.

This clinical trial, led by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and involving experts across the UK, is investigating the use of Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) in patients with a complication known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19.

In the most critically unwell patients with COVID 19, many develop ARDS and their lungs become inflamed and leaky so they fill with fluid. This causes respiratory failure and patients may require admission to intensive care and a ventilator machine to support their breathing. The use of MSCs are a novel treatment that have been shown in experimental models to treat lung disease by reducing inflammation, fighting infection and improving the repair of injured tissue. Patients in this trial, which is known as REALIST COVID 19, will be treated with MSCs, which have been developed by ORBSEN therapeutics and manufactured by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service.

The trial is supported by the NI Clinical Trials Unit and the NI Clinical Research Network and the first patient has been recruited in Belfast HSC Trust with plans to recruit at least 60 patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at multiple sites across the UK including Belfast, Birmingham and London.

Professor Ian Young, Director of HSC R&D and Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Health, said: “The Health and Social Care Research & Development Division has been working with researchers across HSC to address the global problem of Coronavirus.  We have contributed £230k for this vital research and will provide important evidence regarding a potential new treatment for respiratory failure, a leading cause of mortality in COVID-19. HSC will continue to support health research and encourage people to participate in research trials and other studies so patients can get the best possible treatment to help tackle the spread of COVID-19.”

The trial has been identified by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a national urgent public health study. It is funded by Health and Social Care Research & Development Division and the Wellcome Trust and sponsored by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

See full press release from Queen's University Belfast>

See press release supporting Clinical Trials from Department of Health NI>