Ireland has tremendous potential to increase its international reputation as a clinical research hub and attract more research projects which provide many benefits for Irish patients, if there is continued focus on enhancing clinical research infrastructure in Ireland, some 200 delegates heard today at a national seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day 2017. The HRB-CRCI (Health Research Board Clinical Research Coordination Ireland) seminar, “Improving Patient Health Through Clinical Research”, brought together some of Ireland’s leading experts involved in clinical research in Ireland as well as patients to highlight how improved access to clinical trials can increase health benefits for patients. The HRB-CRCI outlined that investment in Irish clinical infrastructure is showing progress with 197 trial sites now opened across its research centres in Ireland in 2016 compared to 143 in 2014.
Since 2014, there has been a 37 percent increase in the number of sites conducting clinical research in Ireland and over 134 international clinical trial study queries have been centrally processed for potential opportunity. The HRB-CRCI states that in 2016 there were 15 hospitals and almost 300 clinical investigators involved in clinical research in Ireland working with the clinical research facilities and centres around the country. Each year over the past number of years over 100 new clinical trials have opened in Ireland.
According to Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, “The HRB took a very deliberate and strategic approach to developing the clinical research ecosystem in Ireland. Our investments in the physical infrastructures, the researchers, and the research networks have been the springboard to this upsurge in clinical trials activity in our health system. And between now and the end of our current strategy in 2020, we plan to invest a further €54 million to maintain and to expand Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials and healthcare intervention studies.”
Deirdre Glenn, Director Lifesciences and Food, Enterprise Ireland said: “As a funder of the HRB-CRCI, Enterprise Ireland recognises the need to bolster the Clinical Trial infrastructure in Ireland and we greatly welcome the increase in the number of trial sites announced today which benefits both indigenous and multi-national companies. The life sciences and medtech sector accounts for a significant level of Irelands export revenue and today’s announcement further builds on our strong international reputation for excellence and innovation in healthcare. Through the HRB-CRCI, companies will benefit from having access to a strong national clinical research system that enables them to develop novel products and technologies in Ireland, benefitting society as a whole and confirming Ireland’s status as a global leader in healthcare solutions.”
The seminar heard from Dr Pat O’Mahony, CEO, Molecular Medicine Ireland, that creating further scale and increasing clinical research in Ireland requires stakeholders collaborating to create a permanent infrastructure that includes medium to long-term funding visibility; promoting research as a core component of careers in health service delivery; and advocating to patients the many benefits of participating in trials. “Investment in our clinical research infrastructure has shown substantial results. It has resulted in increased trials, more centres for trials around the country, and most importantly offered access to health innovations for more Irish patients. To further build on this, research must become an integral part of our overall health service delivery. In practice, this would mean enabling all interested health professionals to have the capacity to test new innovative treatments, therapies and medical devices with their patients during their daily work. It would mean greater and easier access for patients, and increased opportunities to collect research data. It would mean fundamentally increasing the clinical research scale we have in Ireland. Our ultimate aim should be that any patient who needs care, is suitable and has a desire to access novel treatments under development, could have the option to do so,” said Dr O’Mahony.
HRB-CRCI acts as a coordinating centre for Ireland’s involvement in clinical trials, promotes the Irish network internationally and Ireland’s ability to successfully deliver multicentre trials led by Irish or international investigators. “It is widely acknowledged that clinical research not only saves lives but can enhance patients’ lives in the longer term as new products come to market. Those countries that have embraced research as part of their national healthcare system have also witnessed better health outcomes for their patients. Ireland has established a research community that complies with the quality and regulatory standards required to safeguard patients whilst enabling new innovations to be efficiently tested. This infrastructure has the potential to be up scaled now to take best advantage and position Ireland as a significant hub for clinical research for the future,” said Prof Joe Eustace, Chairperson of HRB-CRCI.
Speaking about the clinical research infrastructure in Ireland, Dr Fionnuala Keane, Chief Operating Officer, HRB-CRCI, said “We need to create more awareness for Ireland as a country that can host significant research projects. Ireland has a thriving life sciences sector rooted in both academia and industry and this enriched arena provides a natural linkage to enabling clinical research. The more organised and sophisticated our clinical research infrastructure and delivery systems are, the better the outcomes will be for the public we serve. That also means we must have a long term plan and funding model to meet the needs of industry and academia wishing to host trials so that a robust network which is composed of an appropriate infrastructure, qualified personnel and clinical research skills is available here.”
Concluding Dr Keane said, “Since the first clinical trial took place in 1747, assessing the benefit of citrus fruits as a treatment for scurvy in sailors, clinical trials have come a long way. International Clinical Trials Day on Saturday 20 May is a unique opportunity to share information on the current exciting innovations taking place here and review how we can enlarge our research capacity in Ireland to the benefit of patients”.
HRB-CRCI today published a programme outlining the events taking place across the country to mark International Clinical Trials Day.
For further information on the events scheduled visit: www.hrb-crci.ie/2017/05/ictd2017_event_calender