Celebrating International Clinical Trials Day 2020

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20 May 2020

Pictured: the MTPConnect podcast team - Caroline Duell, Dr Dan Grant and Dr Rebecca Tunstall - with Dr Paul Griffin and Carrie Bloomfield.

Today, across the world, we laud the work of Dr James Lind. On this day in 1747, Lind started his famous scurvy experiments with oranges and lemons on board the HMS Salisbury.

Lind’s work definitively established the effectiveness of citrus fruits in fighting scurvy, and while it took the Royal Navy 40 years to mandate the supply of lemon juice on ships, Lind’s work laid the foundation for modern clinical research. And so, we commemorate International Clinical Trials Day - to raise awareness of their importance in driving medical advances and to recognise and thank the patients and medical teams that make the research possible.

As the world continues living in COVID-19 lockdown, research teams around the world are searching for a vaccine or treatments to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. 

Clinical trials are the next step.

Dr Paul Griffin, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland’s Faculty of Medicine, Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health Services & Medical Director and principal investigator at Nucleus Network/Qpharm is involved with one of the first COVID-19 vaccine trials, set to start soon in Australia.

“I’m involved in quite a few trials relating to COVID-19, some of the most exciting ones are related to vaccine studies, and the role of therapies are going to play a big role in reducing the severity of the duration of disease essentially,” Dr Griffin adds.

“But what we need is something that is going to reduce how many people get infected and that’s where a vaccine really comes in. I’m fortunate enough to be doing some trials with a few vaccines coming up the first being Novavax, which we hope to give to healthy volunteers in a few weeks."

Last year in Australia, ‘this modern clinical research’ was responsible for 1,820 ongoing clinical trials - a 22-per-cent increase since 2015 - as the search for better health continues.

Co-Chair of the industry-supported R&D Taskforce & Head of Clinical Operations at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Australia, Carrie Bloomfield, says patients and volunteers deserve recognition for helping to drive forward medical research advances.

“Patients participate [in clinical trials] because they are interested in contributing to the body of knowledge around new treatments and so depending on the environment to a particular clinical trial, some have been put on hold to keep patients safe, as maybe there is an alternative therapy at the time,” Ms Bloomfield explains.

“For those patients where the clinical trial is important for their ongoing treatment, as they can’t come off a clinical trial, we have seen our investigators get involved in tele-health or tele-medicines and doing a lot of remote work with patients and trying their best to adhere to the protocols to ensure we meet our primary end points.

“We’ve also seen the industry respond in terms of getting patients their medicines directly to home, where that has been possible, and we’ve had lots of discussions with our sponsors on how we can continue to review the patient data remotely.

While the clinical trials sector is being challenged by COVID-19, it is also poised to play a key role in Australia’s COVID-19 response and recovery. We say thank you to the thousands of patients who volunteer every year to be involved in clinical research and to over 7,000 people working on clinical trial programs around Australia that wear the white coats.

To hear more Paul and Carrie, as well as Dr Dan Grant and Dr Rebecca Tunstall from MTPConnect, listen in to a special #ICTD2020 episode of the MTPConnect podcast.