Published November 17, 2021
The 2021 Creative Scientist Workshop on November 9 brought together 138 participants representing 33 Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program hubs from across the country and NIH for a deep look into remote clinical trials. “Remote Trials: Future or Fiasco” featured a lineup of national speakers, each with a unique perspective on this complex topic.
The virtual workshop was co-presented by the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research (SCTR) Institute.
In his welcoming remarks, CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, called the topic of remote trials “timely and important,” and noted that the subject of the workshop ties in directly with the vision of the CTSI, which is to perform research to improve the health of the community and to reduce health disparities.
Murphy was followed by workshop presenters whom he described as “six national leaders in the field bringing their own perspective and their own expertise.”
The opening speaker, Daniel Ford, MD, MPH, Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, David M. Levine Professor of Medicine, Vice Dean for Clinical Investigation, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, discussed the current state of clinical research in a COVID-19 world.
“The number of active research protocols are increasing, yet recruitment into trials remains below pre-COVID era,” he explained. “Recruitment is really a key issue right now.” Ford sees great promise for remote research, specifically in decreasing the burden of participation, thus increasing enrollment, and also in establishing easier communication channels between research teams and participants.
Andy Coravos, Co-Founder and CEO, HumanFirst, provided an overview of technology-based systems to monitor patients outside of conventional clinical settings. “Your studies are a way of designing the future,” she said.
In his look at the translational science perspective on remote trial methods, UB CTSI Creative Scientist Workshops Director Larry Hawk, PhD, 20th Century Club Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, shared that most polled researchers “predict remote trials will either be the new normal, or be part of the new normal. Some are incredibly enthusiastic, a few are incredibly cautious.”
2021 Creative Scientist Workshop Co-Director Jennifer Dahne, PhD, Co-Director, MUSC Remote and Virtual Trials Program, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, addressed whether remote trials are more susceptible to fraud than in-person trials. “We need to think more about what fraud prevention strategies actually work best, for what studies, and for what types of fraud,” she explained.
Eric Hekler, PhD, Director, Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems, and Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, discussed remote trials from a behavioral science perspective, focusing on “the potential opportunities that remote trial methods and tools actually afford us for behavioral health research.”
The final speaker, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health, took an in-depth look at issues of inclusivity in remote trials, and touched on concerns that remote trials may exacerbate disparities.
“Investigators struggle to achieve inclusive participation,” he explained. “Our best intentions are not often met. By doing things remotely, are we adding a new barrier?” He added that strategies to increase inclusivity are “essential to consider in clinical studies — not as afterthoughts, but up front in your clinical planning.”
Question and answer sessions followed all talks and the afternoon featured interactive small group sessions.