QUOD Partners with Blood Donor Service to Support National Research to Combat COVID-19

QUOD is very pleased to collaborate with the Blood Donor Service to support two major research projects related to COVID-19.

First, QUOD is providing support for the Convalescent Plasma Trials, REMAP-CAP and RECOVERY. The trials will collect plasma samples from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to administer to patients suffering from serious symptoms in the hope that this will boost their production of antibodies. QUOD personnel are assisting with the preparation and distribution of plasma from recovered patients, as well as the acceptance, storage, and distribution of plasma from trial participants.

In addition, assistance from QUOD was essential in the effort to rapidly scale up validation of COVID-19 antibody tests. COVID negative plasma samples from the QUOD biobank were used to provide a ‘healthy patient’ control group to test for false positives. QUOD personnel have also been hard at work preparing additional plasma samples provided by the Blood Donor Service for testing. Initial results of this antibody testing are described in this pre-print.

The swift and efficient deployment of QUOD resources and personnel to support these efforts is a strong testimony to the strategic value of the research platform we have built together. We are glad to have a meaningful role in enabling the national response to the crisis.

Meet the Team: Dr. Sarah Cross, National Operations Coordinator

After seven years, QUOD’s founding National Operations Coordinator, Sandrine Rendel, moved on earlier this year to a new role at Imperial College. We remain deeply grateful for all that she has done to establish and grow QUOD! Fortunately, we have found an excellent new Coordinator in Dr. Sarah Cross, and we are quite excited for the depth and breadth of experience that she brings to QUOD. You’ll be hearing much more from her as she settles into the role, but here’s a little introduction.

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
I have spent the past 14 years working as a Research Scientist in Islet Transplantation and as the Deputy Manager of the Human Islet Isolation Facility here in Oxford. This involved many long hours isolating islets for both clinical transplantation and research purposes, as well as leading a small team of researchers studying the impact of donor variables on isolated islet quality and function.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
Having been immersed in the field of transplantation for my entire career, I have seen the incredible impact that transplantation has on the lives of recipients. I have been aware of QUOD for a while and wanted to use the knowledge and experiences gained through my academic background to help drive QUOD forward to fulfil its amazing potential as a national bioresource to facilitate world-class research.  

What does your role in QUOD involve?
I’m only a few weeks into the role so I’m currently discovering this myself! However, my main duties involve coordinating the QUOD team both here in Oxford and at our hub sites throughout the country. I am responsible for the governance of QUOD and all the regulatory aspects of the QUOD biobank.

Lightning round time. Milk chocolate or dark?
Both, all chocolate is greatly appreciated!

Favourite place in Oxford?
As a keen runner I enjoy discovering the quieter parts of Oxford – an early summer’s morning run around Christchurch Meadow is idyllic.

Ideal holiday destination?
I absolutely adore New York and am fortunate to have a local guide whenever I visit as my brother lives there. 

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
I’m extremely thankful that I moved house last year to a home that has a separate office for me to shut myself away in and a lovely garden so the kids can run around and burn off their endless energy!

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Please get in touch with any queries via my email – sarah.cross@nds.ox.ac.uk. If I don’t have the answer myself, I’ll pass it on to one of the other very knowledgeable members of the QUOD team!

Fifth Annual QUOD Symposium: Past and Future

Researchers and clinicians from around the country gathered on Monday November 19th in Manchester for the Fifth Annual QUOD Symposium. The Symposium is the primary opportunity each year for collaborators in the Quality in Organ Donation initiative to learn about research completed and upcoming plans to develop the program.

This year’s programme included updates on the development of whole organ atlases from our Newcastle University partners, James Shaw (pancreas), Gavin Richardson (heart), and Bill Scott (lungs). Maria Kaisar (NHSBT-University of Oxford) provided a summary of the research conducted across several QUOD projects to identify biomarkers.

The consortium was also pleased to welcome two new specialists for additional perspectives on the value and future possibilities for QUOD-related research. Susan Francis (University of Nottingham) provided an overview of the research undertaken by the UK Renal Imaging Network and some initial proposals on how whole-organ imaging can play a role in QUOD’s mission to enable better assessment of organs for transplant. New QUOD Steering Committee member Dan Harvey (Nottingham University Hospitals) shared perspective on ‘QUOD in the ICU’ and the long-term research potential that could be unlocked by linking QUOD data with other health-related data collected elsewhere in the treatment pathway.

This year’s Symposium also coincided with a major update to the QUOD website and the first release of compiled results from research supported by QUOD. So far researchers using QUOD samples and data have generated 28 known publications and presentations at transplant congresses including BTS, ESOT, and ATC. These findings address kidney and liver transplant and incorporate multiple disciplines including proteomics, transcriptomics, immunology, pathology, and much more. Highlights include:

  • Proteomic profiling of pre-transplant donor kidneys may correlate with one-year post transplant outcomes (Kaisar et al, Transplantation 103.2 pp. 323-328.)
  • 240 candidate genes significantly associated with DGF and others with long-term GFR (Clatworthy et al, BTS 2018)
  • Exosomal proteomes in donor serum reveal proteins associated with post transplant eGFR (Huang et al, BTS 2019)

First-time attendee Paul Gibson, Project Manager with the Human Cell Atlas at Sanger Institute, described the symposium as “a great opportunity to engage openly and collaboratively with clinicians and scientists across the QUOD consortium… When outlined, the vision and roadmap of QUOD cemented that it is truly an exciting time to be a part of this effort.”

The Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) initiative is a national consortium to promote research and to facilitate service development in organ donation and transplantation. QUOD is funded by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). Launched in 2013, this nationwide programme collects blood and tissue samples from about 80% of the nation’s organ donors, enabling research to identify pathways of injury and repair as well as predictive biomarkers in donor organs for transplantation. With this research, QUOD aims to increase the quantity and quality of transplantable organs, reducing the waiting list, cutting health care costs, and improving outcomes for patients.

Meet the Team: Suzannah Laws, QUOD Administrative Assistant

In March 2020, QUOD was very excited to welcome our new Administrative Assistant, Suzannah Laws. We are already thrilled with the impact that she’s having on the team, and many of you will already have received various messages from her. You can look forward to meeting her at upcoming QUOD-related events; in the meantime, Suzi has kindly agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD.

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
Before joining QUOD I worked on a school-based research trial at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford

What interested you about working with QUOD?
It’s exciting to be involved in world-leading research and to work in a multidisciplinary team.

What does your role in QUOD involve?
I provide administrative support to the QUOD research and management team. This involves ordering laboratory supplies, taking minutes at management meetings and assisting with communications.

Lightning round time. Tea or coffee?
Neither, hot chocolate!

Favourite place in Oxford?
Ultimate Picture Palace Cinema!

Best holiday trip ever?
Graduation trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube.

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Contact me via suzannah.laws@nds.ox.ac.uk with any enquires regarding QUOD meetings and orders.

QUOD Awarded Five-Year Funding Renewal from NHSBT

NHS Blood and Transplant has awarded £2.4 million to the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) programme, hosted by the University of Oxford on behalf of the national consortium of transplant centres, to extend the biobank infrastructure until 2025.

QUOD is a unique national biomedical resource combining detailed clinical data from almost all organ donors in the UK with a biobank of blood, urine, and tissue samples taken around the time of donation. This combination of data and samples enables ground-breaking research on biomarkers to predict organ function as well as study mechanisms of organ damage and repair.

Such research contributes to better selection and optimisation of organs for successful transplantation. These efforts are a vital part of NHSBT’s overall strategy to address the lengthy waiting periods for transplant recipients. By enhancing our understanding of which organs are most suitable for transplant, and how organ injury in the transplant process can be prevented and reversed, QUOD aims to increase organ utilisation. This will make more organs available for transplant and reduce the persistent gap between patient need and organ supply.

Since launching in 2013, QUOD has collected over 90,000 samples from almost 5,000 deceased donors. The biobank has received 63 applications, supported by nearly three dozen funders, involving multiple disciplines including proteomics, transcriptomics, immunology, and pathology. Using QUOD resources, investigators have generated dozens of journal articles, dissertations, and major conference presentations, including multiple  Medawar Award nominees at the British Transplant Society congress.

In 2019 the biobank initiated collection of new sample types—cardiac biopsies and bronchoalveolar lavage samples — and the next five years will see the continuation of this collection and the issuing of these samples to new research projects. Plans are underway to add bile and bile duct samples from liver donors. Following crucial support for national initiatives in Normothermic Regional Perfusion and the PITHIA trial, QUOD will continue to offer expertise and logistical help for appropriate clinical trials and service development. Most importantly, the biobank will extend its provision of, and research with whole organs, enabling further development of the whole-organ pathology atlases initiated under a £1.7m MRC grant received in 2017.

Although the introduction of presumed consent for organ donation (i.e, the “opt out” policy) is expected to increase the overall numbers of organs available for transplant, clinicians still need better tools to understand which organs will function best for which donors. Thus QUOD has ambitious aims to facilitate research in transplantation until 2025 and beyond.