Many clinical trial professionals would agree that better collaboration would be beneficial to the industry. Yet equally with the complexity of partnerships seemingly ever increasing, this can bring its own challenges. How is the partnering landscape changing? What models are working and what aren’t? We asked five clinical professionals – from patient networks, service providers, sites and pharma – to explore these questions and offer their views on partnering in clinical trials.
Patricia Leuchten – President and CEO at The Avoca Group
'I have a real passion for collaboration and I feel there is so much collective brainpower in this industry. I've witnessed when you get a group of individuals and companies together that have disparate and varied experiences, magic can happen. But now there's so many silos and the clinical trial ecosystem is so complex - and it's getting more and more complex. So, I feel that driving the collaboration models even further could have a huge, huge impact.'
Matt Cooper - Business Development and Marketing Director at NIHR Clinical Research Network
'More and more we're seeing companies are starting to do more partnering and particularly in the past some companies have been quite conservative in the way they've looked at their portfolios and pipelines and have kept most of the work in-house. Because of the expansion of the drug discovery side of things the companies can't do everything themselves and they're looking for more partnerships. The networks such as ours are out there to make it easier for companies to partner with academic groups to look at those molecules that they've got and try and find out really good data with them alongside the companies' main R&D thrust.
In particular, consortia now between different companies and academic groups. Companies are working together more on that, particularly in the pre-competitive space. In England we support 30 national specialty groups that are key groupings of clinical experts and what we're trying to do is link those individuals with companies that are trying to partner with particular compounds to try get some really good science behind some of their molecules.'
MaryAnne Rizk - Global Vice President of Biopharma Partnerships at clinical data company Oracle.
'I believe technology is going to be the hub for how Sponsors, whether they're global pharma, emerging biotech or in the MedTech space, are collaborating with CROs and defining these new ways of partnering. Data is by definition creating trust and transparency.'
Vivienne van de Walle – Director and Research Physician at the independent research site PT&R.
'We see that a lot of pharma companies now outsource their clinical operations business. We're not dealing directly so much with the Sponsor anymore, but more with CROs, or CRAs that are being hired by the Sponsor and they're acting as a CRA Sponsor but are actually from a CRO. So, there's this new structure.
I think it was actually last year (2016) that for the first time we broke the margin of over 50% was no longer working directly for the pharma company, but actually through CROs. It's a big shift.'
Dr. Julie Vallortigara – Research Officer at Ataxia UK
'We are aware that a few pharma companies are investing in natural history studies on ataxia being run at the moment on a European scale, which is great to see. This is a new avenue of partnerships.
Another trend in partnerships we see being developed when talking to pharma companies that we work with is that they are interested in working in more than one type of rare disease...Once a pharma company has decided to invest in one type of ataxia, we suggest some other projects - a natural history study, another trial, a repurposed drug - and they are interested in that too. There is a will to expand to other types of rare disease, which I think is very exciting to see.
One strategy that I think patient groups and pharma companies should go forward with hand-in-hand together is to look for drugs that target symptoms - symptomatic relief drugs. These are desperately needed by patients at the moment.
It's about broadening the community. Although we work in ataxia, the rare disease field is a very generous community where people want to share knowledge and expertise. So, let's hope our partners also broaden their interest and join this community.'
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