ZOE’s COVID Study awarded extra funds to continue critical work

June 1, 2021

We’re delighted to announce that the ZOE COVID Study has been awarded further grant funding from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to help us continue to provide a world class citizen science project that continues to inform the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In February 2020, ZOE was a health science startup focusing on precision nutrition. A small team of ZOE developers and clinical researchers at King’s College London (KCL) built the app over a weekend. A month later, the ZOE COVID Study smartphone based app was the biggest community-led COVID-19 study in the world. 

The initial development and running costs of the app until 30th June 2020 were initially funded by ZOE prior to a grant being awarded by the DHSC. 

Thanks to the millions of contributors who logged on daily to tell us how they are feeling throughout the pandemic, the app became an essential tool in monitoring and understanding COVID in the UK. 

In response, last summer the DHSC awarded the ZOE COVID Study its first grant of £2 million grant covering the period of August 2020 to March 2021. This meant we could continue producing our anonymised, aggregated daily data reports that the government had come to rely on alongside other key studies. It also allowed ZOE to build a dedicated COVID Study team to run it and bring you the app you know today. 

The extension of this funding demonstrates how critical the ZOE COVID Study continues to be as new variants and hot spots emerge, and shows the technology could have many future uses in addressing wider health concerns that affect the UK population.

Jonathan Wolf, CEO of ZOE comments: 
“When we launched the ZOE COVID Study over five crazy days and nights last March we never imagined it could become so valuable that the government would be funding it over a year later. We are delighted by this and remain deeply grateful for the millions of people who have helped fight COVID by reporting regularly through the app.”

The ZOE COVID Study is one of three core surveillance studies, the others being ONS and REACT, used by the DHSC to inform and plan government response to the rapidly changing pandemic.

The DHSC has now awarded the ZOE COVID Study a further £3.1 million grant, which covers the period 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022. The funding means ZOE’s unique study can extend its work to detect outbreaks of new COVID variants and broader public health concerns. The funding extension keeps the ZOE COVID Study free and open to anyone in the UK.

Health Minister, Lord Bethell said:
“With symptom data from over one million individuals using the app across the UK, the ZOE COVID Study is a valuable tool in helping us understand the effects of the virus.
“Surveillance studies provide vital data and insight to help us build a picture of COVID-19 across the country and inform our response to the pandemic, and I thank everyone who has volunteered to take part and all research staff helping expand our knowledge.”

Tim Spector OBE, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study, comments:
“Continued funding not only shows how effective ZOE’s community-based, citizen science approach has been in monitoring COVID-19, but the potential our approach holds for the future. The COVID pandemic is just the tip of the iceberg, and we want to use this opportunity to carry on monitoring the population post-vaccination and after infection, including those with lingering long COVID symptoms. This will allow us to  understand the lasting impact of the pandemic, respond early to new threats, and make an impact across all sorts of health concerns beyond COVID-19.”
Prof Richard Trembath, Executive Director, King’s Health Partners, comments: 
“I am immensely proud of the role King’s Health Partners have played in the success of the ZOE COVID Study. Continued funding will allow our teams to continue their critical work in understanding the lasting impact of the pandemic and developing the study into an exciting tool for wider health studies for the public good. The ZOE COVID Study has potentially changed the way we approach public health research through citizen science and digital technology.”
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