Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK

Mai Sims, Jessica; Lawrence, Emma; Glazer, Katy; Gander, Amir; Fuller, Barry; Garibaldi, Jonathan; Davidson, Brian; Quinlan, Philip R

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK Thumbnail


Jessica Mai Sims

Emma Lawrence

Katy Glazer

Amir Gander

Barry Fuller

Brian Davidson

Philip R Quinlan


Objective Annotated clinical samples taken from patients are a foundation of translational medical research and give mechanistic insight into drug trials. Prior research by the Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre (TDCC) indicated that researchers, particularly those in industry, face many barriers in accessing patient samples. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic to the UK produced an immediate and extreme shockwave, which impacted on the ability to undertake all crucial translational research. As a national coordination centre, the TDCC is tasked with improving efficiency in the biobanking sector. Thus, we took responsibility to identify and coordinate UK tissue sample collection organisations (biobanks) able to collect COVID-19-related samples for researchers between March and September 2020. Findings Almost a third of UK biobanks were closed during the first wave of the UK COVID-19 pandemic. Of the remainder, 43% had limited capabilities while 26% maintained normal activity. Of the nationally prioritised COVID-19 interventional studies, just three of the five that responded to questioning were collecting human samples. Of the 41 requests for COVID-19 samples received by the TDCC, only four could be fulfilled due to a lack of UK coordinated strategy. Meanwhile, in the background there are numerous reports that sample collections in the UK remain largely underutilised. Conclusion The response to a pandemic demands high level co-ordinated research responses to reduce mortality. Our study highlights the lack of efficiency and coordination between human sample collections and clinical trials across the UK. UK sample access is not working for researchers, clinicians or patients. A radical change is required in the strategy for sample collection and distribution to maximise this valuable resource of human-donated samples.


Mai Sims, J., Lawrence, E., Glazer, K., Gander, A., Fuller, B., Garibaldi, J., …Quinlan, P. R. (2022). Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about sample access for research in the UK. BMJ Open, 12(4), Article e047309.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 15, 2022
Publication Date Apr 15, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 14, 2022
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2022
Journal BMJ Open
Electronic ISSN 2044-6055
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 4
Article Number e047309
Keywords General Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations