Clinical Research in the COVID Era: Learning Lessons, Saving Lives

The precise day is different for everyone. But sometime in February, the world shifted on its axis, lurching to a halt amidst a growing recognition that we were facing a novel health threat of extraordinary proportions. Fear was spreading as the contours of a pandemic were taking shape. For entire segments of the global economy, the impacts were immediate: shuttering operations and protecting people. But as the world began to grapple with COVID-19, the clinical research and technology industry was gearing up for a unique, dual role – adapting to the pandemic while also playing a critical function in developing the innovative tools to fight this new disease. 

ACRO’s seven CRO members were engaged in a combined total of over 13,000 studies in 2019, having served 2 million patients in 123 countries. These organizations employ 200,000 people. ACRO’s seven technology member companies provided services to all 20 of the industry’s top-selling drugs in 2019, with 10,000 employees powering 22,000 studies. Exactly this kind of global workforce and skillset is vital to meeting a challenge that is unprecedented in modern times.

COVID-19 has sparked extraordinary activity in the CRO industry. Existing research into medicines and diagnostics has largely continued. New research has begun. For both ongoing and new clinical trials, urgency has driven evolution. Around the world, sponsors, regulators, CROs and sites have adapted, taken risks and innovated – with changes large and small – in response to a crisis. 

This extraordinary time enables ACRO to reflect on the industry’s efforts to date. What lessons can be learned? What shifts have worked well? What could the industry do differently? 

To explore these questions, we are launching a new series, “ACRO in Action: Insights from the COVID Era.” In a collection of conversations across our industry, we will look at how the pandemic has already changed the clinical trial ecosystem and ask what lessons can be learned. With an eye towards the future, we will explore how, when things return to normal, we can collaborate more effectively to ensure an improved global environment to conduct clinical research. 

The COVID-19 fight continues with great urgency. But this crisis shows us that clinical research is more relevant than ever. Smarter, faster, more efficient trials are essential. And your voice is needed in this discussion. We need to consider the future of the industry like lives depend on it. Because they do.

Doug Peddicord

Executive Director, ACRO

Click here to see the rest of the series

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