Spotlight on COV-Boost: Experiences of Annie Wright, trial statistician
This blog post is part of a series of posts giving an insight into the role of statisticians working on trials within the Imperial Clinical Trials Unit (ICTU) and how we can incorporate methods work into trials. To view the other posts in the series you can navigate here.
Before joining ICTU
I studied Pharmacology as my undergraduate degree at the University of Dundee. Although I saw value in the degree and was interested in the research surrounding drug development, I could not see myself wearing a lab coat. Throughout my degree I tended to prefer statistics based optional modules and subsequently chose to undertake a master’s degree in Applied Statistics in Health Sciences at the University of Strathclyde. This was a shock to the system seeing as the most maths I had done aside from a few modules were lab calculations for the past 4 years, but I knew from the get-go that I was passionate about working in this area. I learnt a lot within my MSc year about statistical principles and I knew I wanted to pursue a role where I could combine the use of my two degrees. Originally, I planned to go to an industry role but after a change of circumstances I found myself in academia. I started my career at Queen Mary University London working on clinical trials and research projects surrounding women’s health.
I joined ICTU in June 2022 and I was immediately welcomed into the statistics team and found myself in a highly supportive environment. It was interesting starting a role where I was able to come into the office as previously the United Kingdom was still in and out of lockdowns. I am line managed by Leila (a link to her experience on COV-Boost can be found here) and we work closely together on COV-Boost, and I also am involved in two other trials with her.
I have been involved with other projects whilst at the unit; I attended the Great Exhibition Road Festival, help maintain and develop this website, attended the 2022 International Clinical Trials Methodology Conference in October last year and I currently run the ICTU statistics Journal Club.
My role in the COV-Boost trial
I completed my MSc dissertation on the factors that influenced influenza vaccine uptake. Therefore, I was drawn to the opportunity of working on COV-Boost and to further my experience working on vaccine research.
It is enjoyable to collaborate with other statisticians on such a big trial. However, that does come with its challenges, especially since it is multi-university collaboration. We have regular catch ups where we can share updates on our tasks related to our specific roles within the trial. We were also able to meet up in person at the ICTMC conference we all attended last year.
As COV-Boost now spans multiple sub-studies, as well as the main study that was set up at the beginning of 2021, I have been able to aid in some way with all of these. From validating the analyses of new papers for the main study, to writing statistical analysis plans for new studies, to carrying out final analysis and writing papers for publication, the role has been so varied. Most recently I was responsible to write the SAP for a substudy which is exploring the effect of an omicron variant specific vaccine. This was a complex SAP to write as we want to investigate co primary outcomes; one non-inferiority and one superiority against different COVID-19 variants.
I have enjoyed the fast pace and highly impactful nature of the work. The results of the trial are important to the population as a whole and it is really rewarding seeing the changes being implemented in real time alongside the research being conducted. This trial has really made me be able to see the impact of clinical trials and how the projects I am involved in have impact.
I really enjoy the work I am getting up to at ICTU and am glad for the team around me. Coming from a slightly less traditional background of not doing maths and stats as an undergraduate degree I have frequently been worried about how I would fit in in an academic environment and if I would be able to flourish. Working on COV-Boost and at ICTU has given me a lot of confidence in myself and my work.
If you want to read more about COV-Boost or our other team members experience on this, check out the other blog posts and our publications!
As mentioned in this blog series the running of this trial wouldn’t be possible without having such a collaborative group. We would like to acknowledge the roles of others in the team: Professor Saul Faust (chief investigator), Dr Alasdair Munro, our sponsor (University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust), our funders (NIHR, the Vaccine Task Force and DHSC and CEPI), The Oxford Vaccine Group, the external contract research organisation (PHARMExcel) and the COV-Boost Study Group.