ACRO members talk UK competitiveness and enabling post-Brexit success

What happens to clinical research when the UK leaves the EU’s common market and regulatory structure? When public perceptions seem locked onto extremely rare incidents from a decade ago, what can be done to raise the profile of clinical trials and elevate positive stories? As the industry looks to adapt and thrive amidst political and economic challenges, these are some of the questions that UK-based ACRO members are grappling with.

In conversations around the UK this year, ACRO and its members are exploring how clinical research organizations can collaborate with government officials and achieve shared successes for patients and business. Those conversations continued in June, led by Syneos Health CEO Alistair MacDonald, at the company’s new headquarters in Farnborough. That shared success begins with changing how the clinical research industry is perceived by its stakeholders: the status quo is not good enough.

Our industry is a secret and it shouldn’t be, said MacDonald as he opened the roundtable discussion. And when an industry isn’t visible, its positive impacts – high paying jobs and providing care for thousands of patients, for example – can go unnoticed. Brexit gives the industry an opportunity for self-reflection and action. How can we bring more influence to an industry that touches so many lives and helps bring essential new medicines to market? Clinical research organizations can demonstrate leadership with myriad positive examples of their work and show how their efforts lead to success. Highlighting these stories can help change perceptions and raise the industry’s profile.

But “visibility” is not the goal in itself. Clinical trials should not be seen as a last resort. We must do more to connect the dots between clinical care and clinical research, so that physicians are actively telling their patients about clinical trials that may be available. We all succeed when research is embedded in the UK’s care continuum.

How do we get there?

The industry needs to collaborate more effectively with patient groups, by listening to their experiences, values and concerns. We must ask how we can raise awareness and take action to be trusted partners. Dialogue is the path to genuine partnership. Taking cues from aspects of retail relationships, our industry can be doing more to thank people for participating in research and informing them about how their data was used to advance new treatments.

The meeting discussion also turned to the logistics and efficiency of clinical research when compared to the rest of Europe. The UK is small island with a big population and a modern, effective healthcare system. But how does it become one of the top five places to conduct clinical research? To achieve that goal, organizations must take a globally competitive view and look holistically at what evolution needs to occur to boost competitiveness. By examining industry-wide data in the UK, we can set benchmarks and understand points of friction.

With political changes reshaping how the UK interacts with Europe and beyond, the clinical research industry needs to look to the future, examining how it is seen and how it can position itself for success. As the Farnborough meeting demonstrated, ongoing dialogue and collaboration will be essential. ACRO is excited to be playing a central role in these dialogues, helping to create an environment where our members succeed.

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