International Clinical Trials Day – people of all ages can be part of research


Today [Thursday 20 May] marks International Clinical Trials Day and the HSC R&D Division within the Public Health Agency (PHA) is using it to highlight that everyone, both young and old, can be part of research.

Clinical Trials Day celebrates the day that doctor and researcher James Lind started what is often considered the first randomised clinical trial, aboard a ship on 20 May 1747. Clinical research is now the foundation of healthcare and is made possible thanks to the support and commitment of patients working in partnership with researchers and healthcare professionals.

Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of HSC R&D Division within the PHA, said: “The last 18 months has shown that clinical research has never been more important.  The development of the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments would not have been possible without the people who stepped forward to contribute to the studies and make the research possible.

“Clinical research takes place in hospitals and GP practices across Northern Ireland involving people of all ages, both living with health conditions and those in good health. To date over 26,000 people in Northern Ireland have taken part in COVID-19 studies funded by HSC R&D Division and over 8,000 people have signed up to a vaccine research registry.

“It is also because of the COVID-19 pandemic that people are more aware of clinical research and we now hope to build upon this and encourage more people to come forward and ask their healthcare professional about taking part in research.”

A recent survey carried out throughout the UK, including 523 people in Northern Ireland, looked at the impact of COVID-19 on public awareness of research.

It showed that most people here thought research during the pandemic was important and were grateful to the people who had taken part. 30% of people trusted research more because of COVID-19 and 32% said they would be more likely to take part in health research in the future.

However, the majority of respondents underestimated the numbers of people who had taken part in COVID-19 studies and didn’t know that their local hospital offered opportunities to take part in COVID-19 research. The findings also suggested that older people tended to be more positive about research than younger people.

There are many studies on different types of health conditions as well as COVID-19 taking place across Northern Ireland, looking for people of all ages to get involved. One such study was Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in children. The study recruited children of healthcare workers, aged 2–15 years.

Dr Tom Waterfield, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen's University Belfast, said: “This multicentre study aimed to recruit 1,000 children of healthcare workers aged 2 to 15 years of age. Participants provided blood samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing along with additional data.

“The study aimed to report the presence of COVID-19 antibodies and identify what symptoms the children were displaying if any. Because these children agreed to be part of this research study, we now know more about COVID-19 than we did before. The children were known as the COVID-19 warriors.”

Dr Bailie concluded by saying: “It is through clinical trials that we gain knowledge and in turn hope for a better future. Not everyone is chosen to participate, but vital research can only happen if people of all ages volunteer.

 “I would like to express my thanks to all patients, researchers, healthcare professionals and partners. Your efforts are not only recognised today on International Clinical Trials Day, but every day for the work you do in advancing the treatment, prevention and diagnosis of disease.”

For more information about taking part in research and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 research can be found at

To volunteer to take part in research sign up at