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Duncan Richards, Climax Professor of Clinical Therapeutics and Director of the Oxford Clinical Trials Research Unit (OCTRU) is interviewed about clinical trials and the challenges of running them in a pandemic.

The COVID Clinical Trial Planning Group has been really focused on a strategy for our clinical studies, says Duncan

What has been your role in the Oxford response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

This pandemic is characterised for me by two groups. There are those who are on the front line, treating patients, often rushed off their feet dealing with immediate needs of patients and logistic matters.

In a place like Oxford you also have a huge number of 'armchair generals' who are isolated at home and really want to make a contribution. They have the opportunity to devour the emerging literature and to formulate great ideas. We need both these groups to work together to deliver for patients.

I am leading the COVID Clinical Trial Planning Group, which works at this interface. We have a real multidisciplinary group encompassing immunologists, respiratory, infectious disease, intensive care, emergency medicine and gerontology. The national framework sets the overall agenda but it is vital to have a local plan to be able to deliver.

A great strength of our group is that over 50% are also working on the front line. Not necessarily all day every day, but they are seeing patients on a regular basis. For me, it has been a critical insight into how you conduct research in a pandemic environment.

What has been the focus for the group since it formed to conduct clinical trials?

What our planning group has been really focused on is a strategy for our clinical studies. We must have reviewed 30 plus proposals for clinical trials, but all too often they're all looking to recruit the same patients, and that's not possible. So, we've been doing two things. One is we've been working with senior leadership in the Medical Sciences Division to identify and prioritise those interventions that we think are most promising.

Read the full interview on the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences website