Keep the COVID Symptom Study alive

May 10, 2020

This article has not been updated recently

The COVID Symptom Study is a non-profit research initiative working to support the NHS, the health of the UK public and to facilitate the safe release of lockdown through science. Without further funding it cannot continue its critical work.

The app is a collaboration between King’s College London, Twins UK and health science start-up ZOE. It is the largest community-powered COVID research project in the world with over 3 million contributors. Funds will allow the continued work of over 50 scientists, engineers, researchers and data science experts to analyse COVID-19 data being delivered to the NHS, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and Public Health England daily.

Donate now on Virgin Giving.

By funding this unique non-profit study, you are supporting efforts to save lives and help the UK get out of lockdown safely.

The COVID Symptom Study is the only app of its kind in the world to:

  • Prove that loss of smell is a major symptom of COVID, as published in Nature Medicine, helping prompt the UK government to add it to their official list of symptoms
  • Show how a combination of over a dozen symptoms can pose different risks.
  • Understand how blood pressure medication interacts with the virus.
  • Reveal the 12-fold higher risk to healthcare workers across regions
  • Show that UK COVID infection rates peaked on the 1st of April with 2.1 M people
  • Predict COVID hotspots around the country, and help redirect resources
  • Work with the UK’s largest health charities including Cancer Research UK, Versus Arthritis, Age UK and all of the 23 Royal Medical Colleges to help the country’s most vulnerable groups.
  • Support our healthcare system in conducting research at-scale including:
  • Researching Hormone Replacement Therapy studies to understand the role of oestrogen and COVID with NHS England;
  • Using our machine learning symptom model to support the Department of Health and Social Care to test the public nationally;
  • Identifying possible blood plasma donors to support treatment and trials of ICU patients with NHS Blood and Transplant Service.

Why are we asking for your donation? Because we can’t continue this effort without external support. Please help us by donating now on Virgin Giving.

See below for more information about this appeal:

Where is my donation going?

Your donation is going to the Chronic Disease Research Foundation, an independent medical research charity which relies entirely on donations and grants. Funds from the CDRF go on to support research projects at places like  St Thomas’ Hospital in London. King’s College London and ZOE will apply for grants from the CDRF to help support the work of the COVID Symptom Study.

What will the funds be used for?

King’s College London and ZOE will apply for grants from the CDRF to help support the work of the Covid Symptom Study. The funds will support over 50 researchers from King’s College London, Twins UK and health science start-up ZOE. The teams include machine learning engineers, developers, data scientists, testing staff, scientists, researchers and doctors. The app is built and maintained by ZOE, which is a pre-revenue start-up and has received no funds so far to support this work.  Funds not needed for the COVID Symptom Study will be used for other research grants into chronic diseases.

Has the COVID Symptom Study app received or applied for grant/government funding?

The COVID Symptom Study app has not received any grant or government funding to date. All the costs of the app including engineers and server costs, as well as the salaries of the ZOE data scientists working on the COVID maps and digital diagnoses have been funded by ZOE. ZOE is a healthcare technology startup which so far has no revenue as its product has not yet launched. The COVID Symptom Study app has applied for funding but the situation has been very fast moving, and the app did not even exist seven weeks ago. We cannot afford to continue the current level of investment without any support.

What is the CDRF?

The CDRF is an independent medical research charity which relies entirely on donations and grants. The CDRF funds a wide range of gene research programs that aim to discover the cause of common diseases such as arthritis, back pain, migraine, asthma, dementia and heart disease. The CDRF runs many successful projects at the department of Twin Research at St Thomas' Hospital. 

What is King’s College?

King's College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,500 staff.

Since its foundation, King’s students and staff have dedicated themselves in the service of society. King’s will continue to focus on world-leading education, research and service, and will have an increasingly proactive role to play in a more interconnected, complex world. Visit our website to find out more about Vision 2029, King’s strategic vision for the next 12 years to 2029, which will be the 200th anniversary of the founding of the university.  

What is Twins UK?

Twins UK is a department at King’s College London which has studied 14,000 identical and non-identical twins. Twins UK has produced over 700 publications over the course of 25 years, exploring the causes of a wide range of common diseases and health conditions. Studying twins allows researchers to separate the impact of genes (nature) from the environment and lifestyle (nurture). Visit for more information.

What is ZOE?

ZOE is a pre-launch, pre-revenue healthcare science company using data-driven research to tackle the world’s health issues. By using machine learning combined with digital technologies like mobile phones, ZOE enables large-scale scientific studies to tackle issues like COVID-19, inflammation and the impact of nutrition on health. ZOE has carried out the largest nutritional studies of their kind in the world called PREDICT. 

One of the founders of ZOE is Prof Tim Spector, who suggested ZOE try and help combat COVID in mid March by creating the COVID Symptom Tracker to help support scientific research on the twins  during the COVID epidemic. This blog from ZOE’s VP Engineering describes how the app took off, and quickly came to consume most of the company’s time and employees.

Why is this app different from the government’s Track and Trace app?

The COVID Symptom Study is an independent research project to understand the clinical implications of COVID-19 and where the disease is spreading. This work is supporting doctors around the world, as they try to understand this brand new disease, and also providing information to the NHS to understand the spread of COVID around the country. The COVID Symptom Study app does not follow you around or see who you come into contact with, but asks a daily health questionnaire. All data is collected under GDPR, and you may request to delete your data at any time. 

With your help, over 25 scientific papers are already being published which will help doctors and scientists globally to beat the disease. To discover more about what you are making happen, do visit the blog. We will update this each time we publish a new paper, and explain what has been discovered.

Will my data be used for commercial purposes?

We can absolutely commit your data will not be used for commercial purposes. When you consented to using the app, it was explicit that your data cannot be used like this. This app is a not for profit effort to try and help combat COVID, which is why we are asking for your help. 

Why has the name changed from the COVID Symptom Tracker to the COVID Symptom Study app?

We have changed our name to the COVID Symptom Study. Our app does not follow you around and we felt the use of the word “Tracker” was causing confusion with apps that track and trace. We are a community of people working together to help save lives and support front-line NHS workers across the country. Through your continued daily reporting you are making a truly important contribution to understanding this terrible disease. 

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