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PhenX Protocols for COVID-19 Research

On April 2, 2020, the PhenX team met with Erin Ramos (NHGRI, PhenX Project Scientist) and William Riley (OBSSR) to discuss how PhenX could contribute to the NIH response to COVID-19, recognizing a need to fulfill a rapid demand for recommended measurement protocols for COVID-19 research. The next day, April 3, 2020, a plan to help with the NIH response to COVID-19 was sent to the PhenX Steering Committee for review and comment. The plan received enthusiastic support from the PhenX Steering Committee (SC) and the PhenX team began development of the PhenX COVID-19 page.

The first step was to make COVID-19 data collection protocols, that were already in use, widely available to the scientific community. These COVID-19 protocols, which had been submitted to the NIH, were shared with the scientific community via a collaboration of PhenX and the NIH Public Health Emergency and Disaster Research Response (DR2). The NIH DR2 provides a wide array of data collection tools and resources for use in public health emergencies and disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic. To view the full list of COVID-19 protocols in the DR2 click here; to view the full list of COVID-19 protocols on the PhenX COVID-19 page click here.

In June, PhenX responded to a COVID-19 supplement NOSI: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-20-097.html.

On August 3, 2020, PhenX received a Notice of Award to implement a crowdsourcing approach to develop COVID-19 Collections and to enhance the COVID-19 page. Funding was provided by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The PhenX SC recognized the necessity for rapid release of these COVID-19 protocols and agreed that they could be included in the Toolkit not using the standard process and selection criteria. This paved the way for crowdsourcing to help identify new protocols for the PhenX Toolkit.

Use of crowdsourcing technology helped identify priorities for COVID-19 researchers. PhenX utilized crowdsourcing results to establish the Specialty Collection topics and helped identify the best COVID-19 protocols to address those topics. Crowdsourcing consisted of three phases, beginning August 5, 2020 and completing on October 16, 2020. The six COVID-19 Specialty Collections and the new protocols were reviewed and approved by the SC on October 29, 2020.

The six COVID-19 Specialty Collections, including 20 new protocols (4 with available Spanish translations) were released in the Toolkit on October 30, 2020. Since health disparities was the number one concern for COVID-19 related research, PhenX advises Toolkit users to consider inclusion of protocols from the Social Determinants of Health: Core Collection, and the Cyberbullying due to Racial/Ethnic Bias is included in the Race, Ethnicity and Demographics Specialty Collection.

The PhenX COVID-19 scope document presents the DR2 Main Topics and the PhenX Sub-topic associated with each PhenX COVID-19 protocol. To view the PhenX COVID-19 scope document click here.