COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the world since late 2019, resulting in millions of hospitalisations and deaths. The first generation of vaccines recently approved offer hope, but there is still much unknown about how we develop immunity to this virus and whether current vaccines will continue to be effective against emerging new variants of the virus.
Immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to involve several different parts of the immune system. There is wide variability in the development of antibodies after infection and antibody responses are often short-lived. Meanwhile, T cells are increasingly recognized for their contribution as multiple studies report T cell responses after infection, but their exact role in protection against disease remains unclear.
PITCH was established to address these questions. We have developed a panel of T cell assays to quantitatively measure functional T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in a robust and reproducible way and are using these assays to comprehensively characterise the T cell response.
We are aligned with a number of national collaborations to collectively provide a complete understanding of SARS-CoV-2 immunology:
- SIREN (SARS-CoV2 Immunity & REinfection EvaluatioN): The NHS staff screening study of 100 000 healthcare workers aimed at providing population level data on antibody development and vaccine efficacy. https://snapsurvey.phe.org.uk/siren/
- UK-CIC (UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium): A UK-wide effort aimed at bringing universities together to understand how immunity is developed to the virus, how the immune system contributes to damage from COVID-19 infection and how the virus might escape from the immune system.
- ISARIC4C (Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium): A national study aiming to understand the immune profile of hospitalized patients and the risk factors associated with severe infection. https://isaric4c.net/ and PHOSP-COVID (The Post-hospitalisation COVID-19 study): a consortium of leading researchers and clinicians from across the UK working together to understand and improve long-term health outcomes for patients who have been in hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. https://www.phosp.org/
- HICC (Humoral Immune Correlates of COVID-19) Consortium: A national effort also working alongside SIREN that works with hospitalized patients and healthcare workers to understand how humoral responses lead to immunity. https://www.hicc-consortium.com/
- · VIVALDI: A government-backed study looking at antigen testing in all care homes for those over 65 years old in England. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/health-informatics/research/vivaldi-study