LINQ manages StatinTB and supports the project with communication and dissemination activities. As we organized the project’s Year 2 Progress Meeting, we could not help but think back to the last project-wide meeting, the successful kick-off meeting in early 2019, held in Namibia. This year’s meeting was initially also 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 virtual one-day progress meeting. Dr Reto Guler, StatinTB's Coordinator, began the meeting by greeting everyone welcome and then handed over to the project’s work package leaders, who each provided a status update for their work package.
StatinTB aims to implement a proof-of-concept clinical trial to evaluate whether statins, which are widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs, could be employed as a repurposed drug for host-directed drug therapy (HDT) in tuberculosis.
Patient recruitment kicked off in early July
One important milestone that StatinTB ticked off in 2020 was the recruitment of the study's first patient, an achievement that LINQ wrote an article about for the project website. The recruitment was initially scheduled to start in early March this year, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa and the country issued a nation-wide lockdown. Between March and July, Dr Sandra Mukasa, WP4 Data Management Lead, and her team worked quickly to revise the project's recruitment plan to calibrate it for the ongoing pandemic in order to ensure the safety of both patients and staff. The team's hard work paid off in July when they managed to pre-screen the study's first patient. To make up for the time lost during the initial delay, Dr Mukasa has arranged for StatinTB's team to recruit from five additional sites in Cape Town, South Africa.
The recruitment is scheduled to run for two years, until July 2022. Another achievement by the StatinTB team this year was the publication in September of a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis that the consortium is to conduct. This analysis will guide future clinical trials that are working on repurposing the use of statins to reduce inflammation effectively.
During the Year 2 Progress Meeting, Julia Büch gave a presentation on LINQ’s work to maximize the reach of StatinTB’s results. She proposed a 2-step plan for managing the exploitation of project results, which the consortium agreed to work by. In 2020, LINQ has also coordinated the work of putting together publication guidelines for StatinTB’s consortium, these will be finalized over the next few weeks.
The meeting ended with a focused action planning session. During 2019 and 2020, LINQ has supported the work of an assessment for how young scientists at the University of Namibia (UNAM) can be assisted in improving their clinical trial capacities. We have worked together with the team at UNAM to develop a Capacity Development Plan, which builds on the results of two SWOT analyses we performed over the course of the past two years. As part of this plan, a group of young scientists at UNAM will be offered the opportunity to participate in well-renowned online trainings in good clinical practice (GCP) next year. Presuming it is safe to travel towards the end of 2021, the plan is also to arrange for two to four scientists from UNAM to travel to Zurich, Switzerland, to be trained in PET/CET reading. Going forward, the WP 3 Capacity Building team will meet quarterly to discuss the planning of these events and to be able to make swift adaptations to the plans if needed.