Imperial College London

NPC leads on metabolic analysis in UK COVID-19 research


Sample testing

The National Phenome Centre (NPC) is playing a supporting role in the UK's leading COVID-19 research consortium.

The NPC, based in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, has partnered with ISARIC 4C (Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium) and academic researchers in the Division of Systems Medicine for the handling and metabolic analysis of the consortium’s COVID-19 patient sample collection.

The NPC is currently working through over 1,200 urine samples for the consortium, providing a valuable sample handling and aliquoting service to the consortium’s partners as well as applying bioanalytical tools and advanced data analytics to further efforts at determining metabolic indicators of COVID-19's severity. Following this, the NPC and DSM academics will work together to analyse blood plasma and stool samples as they come in from across the country.

By providing the consortium with technical expertise in sample management, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS), and associated data pre-processing and analysis, the NPC is playing a pivotal role in supporting the national fight against the pandemic.  

Speaking about the team’s work with the consortium, Dr Matt Lewis, Chief Operations Officer for the National Phenome Centre, said: “I am very proud of all the hard work the team has put towards supporting the work of the consortium and how this has, and continues to, impact COVID-19 research taking place across the UK. This work is of national interest and it is fantastic to see the NPC playing such a central role in developing a greater understanding of metabolic response to infection.”

ISARIC 4C is a UK-wide consortium of doctors and scientists committed to answering urgent questions about COVID-19 quickly, openly, and for the benefit of all. The consortium is tackling major questions emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • How long are people infectious, and what body fluids are infectious? 
  • What puts people at higher risk of severe illness? 
  • What is the best way to diagnose the disease? 
  • Who should we treat early with drugs, and which drugs cause harm? 
  • Whether the immune system in some patients do more harm than good? 
  • What other infections (such as pneumonia or flu) happen at the same time? 

ISARIC's national biobank of Covid-19 samples and the NPC’s metabolic processing data is expected to be fundamental to many of the COVID-19 national studies and trials taking place across the UK, including Imperial’s own REACT study

The ISARIC 4C project included NHLI’s Professor Peter Openshaw as a Co-investigator for its original funding. The Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction’s Professor Zoltan TakatsProfessor Jules Griffin and Professor Marc Dumas are also co-investigators for the second funding stream, which is for over £6.5 million. 


Benjamin Coleman

Benjamin Coleman
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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