Schulich Medicine & Dentistry receives significant funding to make clinical trials research more efficient

New funding will help develop a training program to educate researchers on conduNew funding will help develop a training program to educate researchers on conducting better, faster and more efficient clinical trials. (Antoni Shkraba/Pexels)
CIHR grants fund training program for pragmatic clinical trials and create new pan-Canadian consortium  By Kathleen Brown-Blake, Special to Western News, January 19, 2023 By Kathleen Brown-Blake, Special to Western News, January 19, 2023 Dr. Amit Garg’s mission to make it easier and more efficient to conduct clinical trials received a funding boon today , with two new grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Garg is associate dean of clinical research at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a world-renowned clinician-scientist at Western and Lawson Health Research Institute. He received $3.4 million to develop the Health Data Research Network (HDRN) Canada Pragmatic Trials Training Program which will coach researchers through the complicated art of conducting pragmatic clinical trials.

"Clinical trials advance medical care, reduce the costs and burdens of illness on society, and improve health and quality of life for patients with a broad range of health conditions. Unfortunately, researchers face many barriers when conducting these trials," said Garg, professor of medicine and epidemiology and biostatistics at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and nephrologist at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). "With this funding, our training program will help a new generation conduct better, faster, cheaper and more efficient clinical trials."

This structure supports researchers as they conduct pragmatic trials, which are embedded in routine care and analyzed using existing real-world data sources. These trials often include patients who would typically be excluded from traditional trials. Pragmatic trials also lead to findings that accurately reflect the impact of simple interventions. 

Dr. Amit Garg, clinician-scientist and associate dean of clinical research at Western’s Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. (Supplied) "Done well, pragmatic trials are faster than traditional trials and can be conducted at a fraction of the cost - yet, few Canadian researchers have the training and experience to conduct them," said Garg. "This grant allows us to tap into Canada’s tremendous unrealized resources and provide learners with the skills needed to conduct high-quality pragmatic trials."

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson were the natural choices to coordinate this new national training program given that one of their clinical research initiatives, known as the Accelerating Randomized Trials (ART) Platform , includes a pragmatic trials stream.

Garg is also a member of a newly established pan-Canadian clinical trials consortium which received $39 million in CIHR funding to strengthen Canada’s ecosystem of randomized-controlled trials. As part of the consortium, announced by CIHR today , Garg joins a network of experts in clinical trials, medicine, biomanufacturing, ethics, statistics and implementation science from across Canada.

Working together, the consortium intends to remove barriers to clinical trials, maximizing their capacity for impact by making trials more equitable through improved access to all Canadians, including those living in rural or remote communities.  

"Canadian clinical trialists are among the best in the world, and yet Canadian clinical trials have fallen behind other countries in recent times, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Hamilton-based Dr. P.J. Devereaux, who leads the ACT Consortium. "Together, we can identify solutions to common trial barriers and operational bottlenecks, creating efficiencies that will increase the number of large, high-impact clinical trials conducted in Canada, ultimately improving health."

Researchers and scientists who are interested in the training and clinical trial supports that can be provided through the HDRN Canada Pragmatic Trials Training Program, the ART Platform (both at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and/or the ACT consortium) can visit the ART.

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