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Researchers, clinicians, supporters and PPI contributors gathered on Monday to celebrate the innovative PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC clinical trials that evaluated potential treatments for COVID-19 during the pandemic and broke recruitment records for community-based trials in doing so. Both trials were run by the Clinical Trails Unit (CTU) in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (NDPCHS).

Jonathan Van-Tam giving the keynote address at the celebratory symposium.

The full-day symposium featured interactive workshops, talks from the trial teams and external speakers, plus an exhibition that captures the experience and diversity of those conducting and participating in these massive nationwide studies.  

In a reflexive session, attendees were asked to share the first work that came to mind when they think back to the trials. The most popular words chosen were ‘collaboration’, ‘hectic’, ‘challenging’ and ‘mammoth’, demonstrating the spirit behind the world-leading research.  

The day was rounded off with a keynote address from former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who advised the PANORAMIC trial.  

The PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC trials were instrumental both in identifying effective COVID-19 treatments and in testing suggested treatments which ultimately did not improve outcomes for patients. These resulted in a number of therapeutic alerts to national health and care bodies from the Chief Medical Officer as the trials progressed and the pandemic evolved,’ said Professor Van-Tam. These pragmatic studies pioneered innovative methods for conducting rigorous research during a public health emergency and demonstrated why large-scale, rigorous, prospective trials are so essential in assessing the effectiveness of drugs, ensuring that they are only used in patients where there will be a tangible benefit to their care. By getting effective treatments into clinical practice so quickly, the impact of these trials undoubtedly saved many lives. 

Talks included overviews of the publications from each study from researchers across the trials, a summary of the impact of the trials from Professor Ly-Mee Yu, Professor of Clinical Trials and Biostatistics at NDPCHS, and reflections on the inclusivity of both trials by Professor Mahendra Patel, CEO of the Centre for Research Equity through Pharmacy, Communities and Healthcare. 

The landmark PRINCIPLE trial found that the inexpensive repurposed steroid medication Budesonide significantly reduced recovery time for COVID-19 patients aged 65 and over when treated at home. Its findings were quickly incorporated into clinical guidelines around the world.  

Seeing our research translate so rapidly into better patient care is incredibly rewarding,' said Professor Christopher Butler, co-chief investigator of the PRINCIPLE trial. 'This symposium allows us to reflect on and celebrate the trials’ methodological innovations and widespread impacts. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to discuss the innovative research methods and the delivery of both trials, present findings, examine the impact of the trials and discuss future collaborations for research and analysis. 

Attendees also visited The PANORAMIC PRINCIPLE art exhibition by CTU artist-in-residence Tanya Poole, who created works interpreting the human experience of conducting and participating in the trials. Professor Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of the History of Art at Trinity College introduced the powerful portraits which honour the diverse array of participants, researchers, and medical professionals whose inclusive efforts set global benchmarks and transformed lives.  Read more about The PANORAMIC PRINCIPLE exhibition and download the brochure. 

The PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC teams worked tirelessly under immense pressure during the pandemic, said Dr Gail Hayward, co-lead investigator of PANORAMIC. Today we celebrate their vital contributions to improving care through rigorous community-based research. 

Now the PANORAMIC trial has reached the end of recruitment and with the publication of the PRINCIPLE trial results, the symposium gave an opportunity to share scientific outputs, consider lessons learned, celebrate everyone’s hard work and thank all who contributed. 

Find out more about the PANORAMIC and PRINCIPLE trials on the trial websites.