StatinTB year 2 progress meeting: Recruitment start and continued focus on capacity building in the face of COVID-19

On 20 October 2020, the StatinTB consortium got together virtually for the project’s Year 2 Progress Meeting to discuss past achievements and upcoming milestones. The meeting was initially planned as an in-person event, however, as has been the case with most events this year, the pandemic got in the way of things and the meeting had to be conducted online instead.

All consortium members from South Africa, Namibia, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK took part in the one-day progress meeting. It began with StatinTB’s Coordinator Dr Reto Guler from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, welcoming everyone, followed by a short round of introductions. 

Patient recruitment kicked off in early July

After the introduction round, each work package leader provided a status update for their work package. One of the key milestones for StatinTB in 2020 was the recruitment of the study’s first patients. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the start of recruitment had been delayed. Directed by Dr Sandra Mukasa, WP4 Data Management lead, the recruitment team managed to pre-screen the first patient in early July (an achievement which we reported on in a previous article) and enrol the first patient in October.  In order to make up for the COVID-19 caused delay, Dr Mukasa and her team have added five new clinics in Cape Town as additional recruitment sites in the last nine months, which is increasing the study’s recruitment capacity significantly. The recruitment is scheduled to run for two years, until July 2022.

Despite the many challenges that the past months’ strict lockdown regulations in South Africa have posed onto the StatinTB consortium, its members have managed to stay productive. In September, the consortium published a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis that is to be conducted by the group. Results will provide guidance for future clinical trials that are working on repurposing the use of statins to reduce inflammation effectively.

Looking ahead

LINQ leads WP5 Project Management, Dissemination, and Exploitation. During the meeting, Julia Büch from LINQ gave a presentation on what has been done to date to maximize the reach of the project’s results and proposed a 2-step plan for managing the exploitation of project results, which the consortium agreed to work according to. LINQ has also coordinated the work of putting together publication guidelines for StatinTB’s consortium recently, which will be finalized during the coming weeks. 

The meeting ended with a focused action planning session. Here the needs assessment for extending UNAM’s clinical trials capacities, which was performed earlier in the project, was discussed in depth by the consortium. The results of the assessment were adapted to the current situation in which in-person trainings cannot be conducted, and also not be reliably planned. To that end, ‘tried and tested’ high quality online trainings were selected to provide young scientists from UNAM with the desired trainings next year. It is still hoped that some in-person activities that were planned for 2021, such as trainings in PET/CT reading for scientists from UNAM in Zurich, Switzerland, will be possible towards the end of the year. Quarterly meetings of the capacity building team will ensure that feasibility of the different training measures will be regularly assessed and adapted as needed.