CLEAT Trial Manager Erika Parkinson redeployed to test COVID-19 samples

CLEAT trial manager, Erika Parkinson, has been redeployed to test COVID-19 samples at The Royal Bournemouth Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erika joined ORI as Trial Manager for the CLEAT study in May 2019, an NIHR funded randomised controlled comparing a cycling and education programme (CHAIN) with usual physiotherapy care in the treatment of hip osteoarthritis. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the CLEAT trial is currently on hold.

Erika studied Biomedical Science at Nottingham Trent University, followed by Oncology at Masters level at the University of Nottingham Medical School, and then completed her PhD using Proteomics and Bioinformatics for the Diagnosis and Prognosis of Melanoma and Breast Cancer. Erika has worked as a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Proteomic Research at the University of Southampton and as Head of R&D Biology at the Cell Culture Facility at Solentim Ltd. With the CLEAT trial on hold, and with such vast laboratory skills, Erika was soon recognised as a member of staff who could contribute to testing COVID-19 samples at The Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

We recently spoke to Erika about how her new role:

“With the CLEAT trial on hold, and with my background as a Scientist, I volunteered to help with the COVID-19 testing at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital. A few weeks ago, I started in Immunology and was later reallocated to the Molecular Pathology COVID testing team.”

“Swabs taken by the nursing staff from suspected COVID cases are delivered to the Microbiology team where they are processed, inactivating the virus to allow the samples to be handled safely in the Molecular Pathology labs, which is when I get involved. The first step is to extract and purify the RNA from the virus particles, and then the second part is to prepare the Real Time Reverse-Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), which is the laboratory method used to detect the presence of coronavirus contained within the swab samples. At the end of the RT-PCR run, we analyse the data from the software and deliver our findings back to the Microbiology team for reporting.”

“I feel proud to be able to go into the labs and do something that helps. I have skills that can be useful during this pandemic, so it’s nice to know I am doing something of value.”

Associate Professor Tom Wainwright, who is Chief Investigator of the CLEAT trial, further commented:

“It is great that Erika can use her vast experience to help at this time. I would like to thank her and all of our other local NHS colleagues for their hard work in dealing with the pandemic. For example, our colleagues in the R&D team, who usually help with our orthopaedic trials, have within days, set up and started recruiting for the RECOVERY trial. An amazing effort, and one that it is essential as we try to discover treatments for COVID-19.”