As part of PCT TV at Partnerships in Clinical Trials Europe, we spoke to Matt Cooper, Business Development & Marketing Director at NIHR Clinical Research Network, about the challenges facing clinical trials in the UK today and how changes in technology and partnering are helping combat them.
Watch the full exclusive interview or read the key takeaways below.
What are the biggest challenges facing clinical trials today?
'With the greater level of personalisation of medicine and the trials related to them, it's finding the right patients for those trials, particularly in those niche or rare disease areas. In England in the NHS, we've got great services around those rare areas and it's really about making sure that we can target the trials to those right individuals.'
Which technologies do you see having the biggest impact?
'The huge one is the whole digital agenda which is going on at the moment. Particularly around using digital technologies to make it easier for patients to both find out about clinical research and secondly to participate. Along with that goes the piece about linking data records together.
Again, in the NHS we've got a really rich data history with the number of patient records - a single health provider with a single NHS number that links every individual. It's about making the best of those data linkages to pull the data together and make it as easy as possible for the patients to then participate in trials.
Also, trying to offer patients choice; as part of their passage through the NHS, make trials part and parcel of that standard care. So, having digital systems where they can go and find out about clinical trials happening in their particular disease area.
The more the patient becomes empowered, there is the ability for them to say they want their data to be used more regularly and for data sets to be linked together - from their healthcare records and looking at other data sets such as cancer registry data, to make a richer patient. You're having the patient more in control of how they get involved in trials and where and when those trials are taking place.'
How is the partnering landscape changing?
'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.'
How do you see clinical research changing in the next five years?
'The digital agenda is going to be really big, as well as the personalisation, but for us the other piece is about the real world data. As data and healthcare records get more linked together, the ability to do really good randomised real world evidence trials will be key. Countries like the UK are really well placed to take on board those sorts of studies.
The Salford Lung study has been a really good example that's been globally recognised as a unique and innovative way to do these real world evidence trials. I think we'll see more of a shift in that direction to look at getting not only efficacy data, but effectiveness data. The trials will be answering the questions that the payers are going to want to know, so it's not just 'does the drug work and is it safe?', but is it going to work in a wider population?'