This article was originally published on October 6, 2016 as a part of the Partnerships in Clinical Trials Blog.
Particularly in the clinical research field, epidemic response poses many challenges. Clinical research conducted on global health concerns often requires rapid action, immediate trial start-up and low standard good clinical practice (GCP), among other struggles. It’s incredibly difficult to conduct a clinical trial during the course of an epidemic. However, these challenges can be overcome.
On day two of the Partnerships in Clinical Trials (PCT) conference held as part of Boston Biotech Week (BWB), two inspiring presenters shared their journeys working to combat infectious diseases, such as Ebola and Zika, in third world countries. Both presenters asserted the common idea that the research industry needs to work together to become more prepared for epidemic response before an outbreak occurs.
Collecting the right data
Presenter Toni Hoover of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke on the power of technology and therapeutic innovations to fight diseases that afflict underprivileged individuals. She stated that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving quality of life around the world, works with many partners to provide vaccines and novel therapies to individuals in impoverished communities.
The Foundation and its partners in the biotech space are working to collect data necessary to make informed decisions in the event of an epidemic. Hoover celebrated the potential for this data to be used to predict where the next epidemic may occur, declaring that the whole healthcare ecosystem needs to work together to prepare and develop a platform for dealing with epidemics such as Ebola and Zika. She noted, “Zika is an example of how we need to think about interventions, but also how we can be prepared by collecting the right data to inform decisions.”
Increasing industry transparency
Similarly, presenter Trudie Lang of the Global Health Network at the University of Oxford asserted her belief that the clinical research industry needs to be more prepared to respond in the event of an outbreak.
Lang shared her experience as a researcher conducting an Ebola trial in West Africa. She described the rush to begin the study and the immense pressure to complete the trial in only 16 weeks. Though her team managed to complete the clinical trial at lightning speed, Lang admitted, “We were too late. The epidemic was already on the downward slope by trial completion.”
This experience proved to Lang that the research community must be ready to combat infectious diseases before an epidemic reaches this downward slope, and possibly before an outbreak occurs. “Research cannot be an afterthought [in the event of an outbreak], it should be embedded in the initial response” she stated.
Lang went on to propose a solution: shared research information and transparency in the clinical research industry. She stressed that the same issues plague every clinical trial, namely patient recruitment, study compliance, and more. Lang argued that sharing clinical research information between groups, disease areas and regions would make research more agile, allowing quicker response to life-threatening diseases.
While epidemics and global illnesses are incredible cases of the need for organizational collaboration and information sharing, these ideas are also applicable on a smaller scale. These two women revealed that a more communicative, collaborative research industry could change the conduct of clinical research for the better and lead to greater efficiencies for potentially life-changing trials.
To learn more methods for increased industry efficiency, view our library of resources for clinical research professionals.