Is the Pandemic a Time for Inflection or Reflection?

April 7, 2020

While the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment trials, the delays for some patients and families to the their own personal treatment journey are absolutely tragic.

Right now, it may feel as though clinical research on anything other than COVID-19 has ground to a halt. And of course, our incredible scientists should be racing to launch vaccine and treatment trials-the whole world wishes them well-but for some patients and families the delays to the trials that effect their own personal treatment odyssey are nothing short of heartbreaking. 

Whether organizations choose to delay or forge ahead with their planned trials in these unprecedented times, there is a great deal of support for them. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has issued guidance for trials that might have to pause their studies, and the world’s ethics committees are offering advice to all those submitting requests to alter trial plans. Some of those organizations that fund clinical trials have also shown amazing flexibility, with the U.S. National Cancer Institute announcing that it will, if possible, allow its’ investigators to assess trial participants' health remotely.

In essence, just like the rest of society, clinical research is having to find ways of adapting. Rather than just putting research on hold, the virus is driving us to identify and champion new ways of working. So, is there a chance then that we could turn this hiatus into a driver for change? 

What if we used this pause in research time as an opportunity to turn our attention to the immense volume of real world data at our fingertips, for example? What if we focused on the potential of that data to reinvent the somewhat constricting models of traditional randomized clinical research? Could it be that by using it to create better protocols now, using that data to identify the right patients in the weeks and months to come, we could actually create a research future post-COVID-19 that is brighter than the research landscape before? Could we affect a sea change now that revolutionized research for every future generation?

Perhaps if we take this time to learn together-not just about the speed and urgency with which a candidate vaccine for a deadly virus can be found, but about the power to transform research that real world data gives us-then perhaps we can make the pandemic the inflection point for clinical research, not the endpoint. And we can take pride in building the foundations of a better future for healthcare in 2020, not just spend time waiting for a return to the past.

 

Sarah Beeby is the EVP, GM Life Sciences, at Clinithink